F’ville wrestles with decision on SPLOST vote

The Fayetteville City Council on Thursday will take up the proposed two-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) initiated by the Fayette County Commission.

Three council members on May 2 expressed some reservations about having the city participate in the SPLOST initiative expected to be on the ballot in November.

Fayetteville Community Development Director Brian Wismer in a May 28 letter noted that while the county would use SPLOST revenues for stormwater needs, commissioners have asked municipalities to consider using cities’ share of the revenues for “core infrastructure” projects. Wismer said the two years of collections would generate approximately $5.4 million for Fayetteville.

Based on directions from the council on May 2, Wismer on Thursday will propose a short, medium and long-term list that will include stormwater, transportation, public safety and water/wastewater projects that total $17 million for the council’s consideration.

A sampling of the short-term projects include dredging Pye Lake, land acquisition, design and construction of a new fire station, a multi-use path extension, a license plate reader system and culvert rehabilitation.

It was at the May 2 meeting that some on the council expressed concerns about the county-inspired SPLOST proposal. When it comes to the SPLOST planned for the November ballot, there is a potential problem if Fayetteville opts out.

City Manager Joe Morton after the meeting said it was the city attorney’s view that it does not take all the county’s municipalities agreeing to the SPLOST to place it on the ballot. And if the city does not sign up to be on the initiative and it passes there is a risk that the city will not receive its share of the tax.

Councilman Walt White on May 2 said the SPLOST would amount to a tax on Fayetteville citizens, adding to Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown who was in the audience that, “We’re tied into your SPLOST. We lose out if it passes (and if the city does not participate). We’re in hard times and we don’t need a tax increase. I don’t want to tax our citizens. It’s not right.”

Councilman Ed Johnson essentially agreed, saying he would first like to see a list of the city’s needs.

“It seems like we’ve been sucked into this. The city has done its due diligence. It seems like we’re asking the citizens to take on another tax,” Johnson said.

And Councilman Larry Dell in one of his comments zeroed in on Brown.

“What’s the difference this time and the one a few years ago? We’ve done our due diligence (in Fayetteville) for years. A SPLOST is like crack cocaine for elected officials,” Dell said.

His comment was in reference to Brown’s October 2009 letter to the editor in which Brown speaking of then-Commissioner Lee Hearn said, “These SPLOST proposals are the new crack cocaine.”

Mayor Greg Clifton on May 2 was the only council member to overtly support the SPLOST proposal since a portion of the proceeds would come from people living outside the city.

“(The SPLOST) allows the voters to decide, so we’re not actually imposing (a tax) on citizens. It gives the citizens the ability to tax themselves,” Clifton said.

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