Toccoa, Stephens Co. Settle SPLOST Split

Stephens County and Toccoa City Commissioners reach an agreement on splitting revenues if voters approve SPLOST VI later this year.

After meeting for more than an hour on Tuesday, the two sides met in the middle and agreed that if SPLOST VI is voted in, Stephens County will receive roughly 70 percent of the collection with the city of Toccoa receiving roughly 30 percent.

The 70-30 county/city split sits in between the respective proposals from Toccoa and Stephens County officials.

Stephens County had wanted to increase its percentage in SPLOST VI from 65 to 75 percent of collections; citing increasing mandates with decreasing funding and saying without more SPLOST revenues, a significant millage rate increase would have to be looked at.

On the other hand, Toccoa wanted to maintain the status quo at 35 percent, the same as in the current SPLOST, saying that it matched with the Local Option Sales Tax split as well.

After both sides initially held firm to their stances, some commissioners indicated willingness to compromise.

Stephens County Commissioner Debbie Whitlock said a 70-30 split would serve both sides better than not reaching an agreement over the difference in the two proposals.

“If I look at the numbers, it is going to behoove both the city and the county, since we are so far apart on this, to agree to a 70-30 split versus a five-year plan,” said Whitlock.

With a 70-30 split, the county would receive about $14.9 million of a $21.3 million projection over six years of SPLOST VI and the city of Toccoa would receive about $6.4 million, with Martin and possibly Avalon each receiving a small percentage of collections.

If no agreement had been reached, a five-year SPLOST would have given the county about $12.9 million and the city about $4.6 million.

Toccoa City Commissioner Ron Seib also said that lack of an agreement between the two sides could have had implications on the SPLOST vote.

“If we do not compromise and come up with an intergovernmental agreement, this thing is not going to pass,” said Seib.

County Commissioner Dennis Bell echoed that, saying that people need to see the county and city working together on this issue.

The two sides also talked about where those SPLOST VI funds would be spent.

On the city side, multiple commissioners said money needs to go towards expanding sewer on Big A Road and the Toccoa By-pass.

Also, city commissioners also now said they want to put money towards renovations at the Doyle Street Pool.

City Commissioner Terry Carter said he feels that project would help build support for SPLOST among voters.

“We need to pull out some more folks who would vote for a pool and those kind of ‘feel good’ projects,” said Carter.

Moving to the county side, officials said priorities include roads, bridges, and culverts, as well as funding for public safety items like Sheriff’s Office vehicles and ambulances.

County Commissioner Dean Scarborough said he feels those infrastructure projects are the most important to voters.

“I think the people are tired of glamorous, feel-good projects,” said Scarborough. “I think the ones that are going to vote for it want realistic infrastructure (projects) to reduce their property taxes.”

Over the next month, work will take place to write the official SPLOST VI resolution and intergovernmental agreement, while both sides finalize their project lists to accompany that.

Stephens County is set to vote on SPLOST VI this November.