County manager: SPLOST can’t be diverted from bypass
A topic that surfaced recently from Fayette County Commission candidates Steve Brown and Allen McCarty dealing with the West Fayetteville Bypass suggested that the project could be scrapped and the previously collected 1-cent sales tax revenues generated for the project be given to the municipalities to pay for their own transportation needs.
Brown cited a recent move in Walton County where the municipalities agreed to return a portion of their 1-cent (SPLOST) revenues, an amount totaling $1.2 million, to help offset a shortfall in the county’s debt service. So the question is, can Fayette County decide to scrap the West Fayetteville bypass and pass the collected funds on to the municipalities?
The answer to that question is “no,” according to Fayette County Administrator Jack Krakeel. Asked to clarify that answer, Krakeel cited issues that prohibit such an action.
Krakeel noted the 1992 Georgia Supreme Court ruling (Dickey v. Storey) in which the court said a governing authority, “... is bound by the SPLOST budget and account reports to complete all projects listed therein unless circumstances arise which dictate that projects which initially seemed feasible are no longer so. In this regard, the governing authority has discretion to make adjustments in the plans for these projects but may not abandon the projects altogether.”
“So you just can’t abandon a project,” Krakeel said. “You have to complete the projects identified in the SPLOST.”
Also pertaining to the SPLOST projects, Krakeel said the Fayette intergovernmental resolution signed by the county and the municipalities identified the SPLOST projects. Of those, 70 percent of 1-cent revenues were designated for countywide projects while 30 percent went for projects in the various municipalities and specific areas of unincorporated Fayette, such as the paving of 100 miles of roads.
Krakeel said the 70 percent/30 percent designation in the SPLOST resolution is significant and essentially prohibits the potential for actions such as giving countywide bypass project dollars to those assigned under the agreement to municipalities or specific unincorporated areas.
“We are bound by the resolution and the SPLOST referendum approved by the voters. You can’t arbitrarily give 70 percent dollars to 30 percent projects,” Krakeel said. “The language is specific on how SPLOST funds can be utilized. The board (of commissioners) is restricted in their ability to modify the project and constrained by the Supreme Court ruling.”
Krakeel also noted that the initial engineering work for the project began in 2006. Consequently, any move to alter the project would have, out of necessity, required action prior to the time the current board took office, said Krakeel.
Even in cases where the governing authority experiences a shortfall in revenue collections, the approved projects can be scaled back but not abandoned, according to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).
As for the East Fayetteville Bypass — on the SPLOST list but not being pursued at present — that project also requires federal funds, most of which are long range and not currently available, according to Fayette County Public Works Director Phil Mallon.