Fayette to go with ‘Plan B’ after stormwater SPLOST goes down the drain

Stock drainage culvert photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Property owners in unincorporated areas to get bills before Christmas

Fourteen percent of Fayette County’s registered voters turned out Tuesday, and a majority gave a thumbs down to a one-cent special sales tax targeted mostly for stormwater projects in the county.

The final unofficial tally was 5,522 (57.18 percent) against to 4,135 (42.82 percent) in favor.

The first-ever countywide two-year Special Local Option Sales Tax would have funded $16.8 million in stormwater projects in the unincorporated county.

It also would have provided $14 million in road and cart path maintenance for Peachtree City and $6.7 million for a variety of projects in Fayetteville. Previous SPLOSTs have been for five years or more.

So what now?

Fayette County’s answer: “... (T)he Board of Commissioners are proceeding with ‘Plan B’ for stormwater solutions with a reworked Stormwater Utility program, using revised credits, with the statements being mailed as early as the end of November,” according to a news release from County Clerk Floyd Jones on behalf of the County Commission Wednesday afternoon.

The county also was emphatic that it will pay for the projects via fees charged to property owners rather than by raising the ad valorem property tax rates.

Fayetteville officials only reluctantly signed on to the SPLOST project list, but more than one Peachtree City Council member made no secret of their desire for the extra money that would have required no city budget pain.

Now, without the sales tax, Peachtree City officials will have to find an additional estimated $1.5 million in the budget each year to pay for road and cart path improvements. Such projects have been paid for with proceeds from the 2004 countywide transportation SPLOST, and those funds were exhausted this year. City residents already pay a twice-yearly stormwater fee.

As an alternative, the city could look at bond financing to be repaid by the general fund or perhaps to a straight property tax increase, officials have said. Others have suggested further cuts to the city budget to accommodate the road and cart path repairs.

But county officials were ready when the bad news became apparent Tuesday nights. Here’s the county’s news release in full:

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Fayette County moves forward with “Plan B” on stormwater solutions

Fayette County, Georgia, November 6, 2013 – Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners held three Stormwater Town Hall meetings to hear concerns and receive feedback on solutions from Fayette’s citizens.

As a result of citizen comment in those meetings, the Commissioners called for a SPLOST initiative to rectify the County’s failing stormwater infrastructure.

Given that the countywide Core Infrastructure SPLOST was not approved, the Board of Commissioners are proceeding with “Plan B” for stormwater solutions with a reworked Stormwater Utility program, using revised credits, with the statements being mailed as early as the end of November.

County Manager Steve Rapson stated, “I appreciate all of the hard work, countless hours, meetings and analysis to arrive at our prioritized stormwater project list. The Board of Commissioners has vowed to address these serious problems and staff did an outstanding job in short-order to pull our detailed project list together.”

Commissioner David Barlow echoed his agreement with Mr. Rapson. “The county government has a sound, vetted list of stormwater projects, prioritized and ready to undertake. That planning will not go to waste as the county proceeds with projects in much smaller increments. The next step is sending the 2013 billing which was delayed waiting on the referendum vote. County staff will begin the process of matching projects against available funding.”

Commissioner Allen McCarty said, “We had a citizens’ recommended plan to fix the problems we inherited. The voters did not like the plan; therefore, the County will have to resume collecting stormwater fees.”

The Fayette County Board of Commissioners would to like to thank those who took their time to attend meetings, speak with staff, to research the issues, and to make an informed decision on the direction of the county.

The Board pledges to move forward in a continuing partnership with its citizens for the betterment of the county and will do its best to bring the aging infrastructure back into a state of good repair.

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Husband and Fat...
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14% of county voters

14% of county voters actually voted? What is the average during off years?

So lets assume every county voter said yes. That's still such a low minority, one would wonder why the county spent so much time and money trying to placate such few people.

There has to be a lesson learned? What is it?

mudcat
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Not sure 9600 voters is 14% of the total

but if it is, then we had a good turn out. Off year elections are usually ignored here. I remember one year long ago when 9% of registered voters turned out and somebody calculated that was more accurately 5% of eligible voters since so many were not registered due to recent relocations or perhaps lack of interest. Heck of a way to pick our leaders. Maybe we should be more involved. Maybe we should pay more attention.

Hey, non voters, don't complain when Harold Logsdon gets back in - part drunk or not. My girl Vanessa could win the prize if you get up and vote. Logsdon groupies may be hung over or disinterested. Vote for Vanessa on Dec 3.

Oh, ok, to get back to your actual question Husband and Fat, the county didn't really spend that much money promoting this tax, but they are still living in the 1970's when they could just propose something and the huddled sheep would just go along with it. I believe those days are over. Now they go to a bond for much less money and the obvious convenience of not having to get the voter's input. They are going to tax you one way or another.

Steve Brown will be making a big show about this and when he does, please understand that his real goal is to run against Westmoreland and win in a couple of years. Look at Westie's district geographically and figure it out. Those who think his district voting opposition will hurt him may forget his district voting support - he was for it before he was against it - or something like that. The dude is a good politician,.

PTC Observer
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H&F - That's

That's how it works in a democracy, the majority of a small group of voters wins. Such is the will of the people.

Husband and Fat...
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Evaluation

There were 3 townhall meetings to voice complaints. How many different people attended?
14% of the county population? 60%?, 5%?

How many people did we try to placate?

Then spend how much time and money did the county spend in an attempt to change the method of financing? And since most were disgruntled about how the fee was calculated, are we now going to spend more time and money reevaluating the fee structure?

At some point, in executive session, did anyone dare evaluate the probability of this not passing?

Woody
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Dear Commisioners: Scrap Plan B

The original Plan A, the sales tax, should have been Plan X.

Plan B, charging fees not previously required and not approved in a referendum, should be scrapped.

The only plan should be to make things work like they always had -- pay for county operations through existing taxes authorized by voters, and then to authorize only new projects which are essential and only when funds are available, preferably from cuts elsewhere.

Why do government solutions have to involve the taking of more and more money from taxpayers? Weren't the Republicans who came in to run our county supposed to be more financially responsible than the Democrats, who used to be in charge but weren't this bad?

While, yes, it may be a cliché, stop the taxing and spending. If any place can do it, that place should be Fayette County. Say no to Plan B and say no to fees not approved by the voters.

doright
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Scrapping the plans

Great job Woody!

PTC Observer
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Woody - Storm water

I am afraid you are barking up the wrong tree Woody.

The stormwater "problem" is consistent with what our county and city government has been up to for some years. Here's volume II of Ga. Stormwater Management Manual. You will note that this is dated August 2001 and was partly funded by Fayette County and Peachtree City. It's only 844 pages, so take your time.

I am afraid that you are fighting city hall on this one Woody. Clearly, the Atlanta region has a "vision" on how they will use your money for this purpose. They will go into debt to fund it now that the SPLOST failed.

http://documents.atlantaregional.com/gastormwater/GSMMVol2.pdf

Woody
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Thanks for regional comm. info, PTC Observer

Rather than having our own county engineer using his training and common sense to determine what has to be done or can be put off, our projects, for which we still have to pay, are determined in regional commission manuals that make Obamacare regulations look simple. On top of that, we're lumped with Atlanta, while neighboring Coweta and Spalding counties are in a different group. We might as well belong to Detroit.

The commission does what the T-SPLOST district was going to do to us with road money, until the voters soundly rejected it. I don't remember a vote to hook us up with the Atlanta Regional Commission. Its predecessor was formed under Gov. Joe Frank Harris, and the Republicans who replaced him continued along with the scheme in 2009 and should have their heads pounded.

The Georgia Regional Commission site is full of fluff and short on details about itself and the regional commissions, but I found another related, but independent, site that goes more into their creation, purpose, and powers. Joining was "voluntary," but you just don't get back any of your state or federal dollars if the county doesn't join, which doesn't make it very voluntary to me. http://www.sgrdc.com/faq.htm

Still, I think it was the right thing to reject the latest sales tax proposal, which went beyond what had to be fixed versus what politicians and their cronies were after. Now, we need to find a way to fix the regional commission layer of government, which it effectively is and which doesn't let citizens vote on its leadership or proposals.

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