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Posted: June 6, 2011 5:49 p.m.

Law allows SPLOST projects to be axed

Coutesy of Newton County/

The proposed civic center project in downtown Covington is the classic example of a project in limbo, something counties may be able to avoid in the future.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed H.B. 240 into law, which allows SPLOST projects to be cancelled by the public if they're deemed unfeasible.

The new law won't apply to the $5 million voters allocated to the civic center in the 2005 SPLOST, because referendums to cancel projects can only be taken during subsequent SPLOST elections.

This is to avoid spending additional taxpayer money, but because Newton County had a SPLOST election in March of this year, the civic center project will run its course one way or the other.

Plus, many community leaders argue that the project remains feasible and can still be completed if the economy recovers in a few years.

County attorney Jenny Carter said previously, in the simplest terms, the civic center must be completed by June 30, 2016. After June 2016, all remaining SPLOST money would be used to pay debt or to reduce property taxes if the county had no debt. That would also be the money's destination for any projects voters chose to cancel under the new law.

The civic center is one of several projects across the state that has a questionable future, because it was approved just two years before the economic downturn. At the time, plans called for a public-private partnership that would have also included a hotel. As the economy tanked, the private investors backed out and the county went from a future flush with cash to one where it was hemorrhaging revenues.

Beth Brown, spokeswoman for Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said her advocacy group supported the law because it gives counties flexibility.

"County SPLOST proceeds may be set aside for projects that were very much needed or feasible prior to the recession but are not so in today's economy," she said. "This legislation allows counties to re-examine the projects on their SPLOST list, identify what may be no longer needed or feasible and allow the local voters to have a voice."

While the 2011 SPLOST passed with 54 percent of the vote, residents did express concerns about a few of the projects. Should some of the those projects not come to fruition six years from now, Newton County voters may be able to repeal them.

Download the attached PDF to review the 2011 SPLOST projects.

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