SPLOST VI Discussions Start

SPLOST VI talks are underway in Stephens County.

Officials from Stephens County and the cities of Toccoa, Martin, and Avalon gathered Monday at the historic Stephens County Courthouse in downtown Toccoa for the first joint meeting on SPLOST VI.

Those officials received initial projections on SPLOST VI from Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers.

Currently, Ayers is projecting anywhere from $18.5 million to $21.2 million over six years of SPLOST VI, if approved by voters.

Officials then began discussing possible projects for that money.

Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said the city’s top priority is water and sewer projects.

“Those kinds of things are necessary for growth and to help this community prosper,” said Jackson.

Other city priorities include road resurfacing, renovating the Schaefer Center, acquiring property for a new police department, and replacing vehicles.

As for Stephens County, Commission Chairman Stanley London said the county is still finalizing its prioritized list.

However, he said the county’s top priority is clearly providing money to fix roads and bridges.

“We have a great need,” said London, stating that the county is 7 to 10 years behind on road maintenance. “Our roads are lacking. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Meanwhile, Martin Mayor Don Foster said his city is looking at building a fire substation, as well as spending money on the water system, and renovating city-owned buildings in downtown Martin. As for Avalon, Mayor Linda Dean said the town would like some money to spend on renovating its town hall on Tower Road.

Before projects can be decided, the parties must agree on how to split the SPLOST revenues.

Currently, the county receives just under 65 percent of SPLOST V revenue, while the city gets about 35 percent. Those same percentages are used to divide Local Option Sales Tax money.

However, Stephens County Commissioner Dean Scarborough said the county would need a higher percentage of the revenue from SPLOST VI.

“The county has pretty well got to have 75 percent,” said Scarborough, noting cost shifting from the states to the counties, a lower tax digest, and debt owed by the county on the jail.

The county asking for 75 percent would leave Toccoa 25 percent or so, depending on how much money went to Martin and Avalon.

Toccoa Mayor David Austin said the city would discuss the county’s proposal, but adds it is not what the city was hoping for.

“We came in expecting the same percentages,” said Austin.

The county and cities are scheduled to hold another joint SPLOST VI meeting next month.

Voters in Stephens County are scheduled to cast ballots on SPLOST VI in November.