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Posted: September 29, 2010 12:30 a.m.

County to hold SPLOST work session at 6 tonight

Newton County residents will vote next year on whether to approve a special local option sales tax that would last until 2015.

However, before a ballot is formed for a March 15 special election, the Newton County Board of Commissioners must select a list of projects to put to a referendum.

Commissioners will meet in a SPLOST work session at 6:30 p.m. today at the Historic Courthouse. The county's five municipalities were instructed to submit lists of projects to the county and representatives from each city will likely be in attendance at the session.

At a previous bi-monthly mayor's meeting, Covington Mayor Kim Carter said the county is given an advantage in determining SPLOST projects because county commissioners approve the project list and calls for a referendum. The mayors agreed they needed to stand together to make sure the cities get a fair share of SPLOST money.

SPLOST is an optional 1 percent sales tax that can only be used to pay for capital projects, which include infrastructure, buildings and other permanent assets. The tax lasts for five-year periods. If a SPLOST referendum is voted down, the entire list of projects is defeated.

The first local SPLOST was approved in 1987 when the construction of Lake Varner and the Cornish Creek Reservoir Plant were approved, according to county documents. Subsequent SPLOSTs in 1995, 2000 and 2005 increased in size as the economy grew. It’s unclear how the 2011 SPLOST will be affected by the economic recession.

At a previous meeting, Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said his city had requested a new water main along Emory Street that would replace 80-year-old infrastructure. He said there are no grants available for such projects, so SPLOST is the only option, outside of taking out loans.

Carter agreed that Oxford needed the pipes, but she said at the time that SPLOST is no longer being used as frequently for roads, bridges and infrastructure, and she would like the mayors to give some consideration to green-space projects.

The SPLOST work session is open to the public.

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