The mayors of Newton County’s five municipalities negotiated for a bigger cut of potential 2017 Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPLOST) money during a work session with the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Tuesday.
The mayors, who met a week prior to the meeting, sat down with Newton County Chair Keith Ellis, District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims, District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson Tuesday, and originally asked for a combined allocation of 25 percent of the money raised from the SPLOST.
The SPLOST, which will go on the ballot for a March 17 vote, is anticipated to bring in $900,000 a month, or $64,800,000 throughout the 72-month period.
In 2011, SPLOST money was distributed to the five municipalities based on population numbers taken from the 2010 census. Under that formula, 17.86 percent of SPLOST funds were divided among the municipalities and 82.14 percent to the county. If the county were to follow the same protocol of dividing the money for the 2017 SPLOST, they would use the same population numbers and percentage breakdown to divide SPLOST allocations.
Mayors Arline Chapman, of Porterdale, Greg Ellwanger of Newborn, Ronnie Johnston of Covington, Jefferson Riley of Mansfield and Jerry Roseberry of Oxford, instead, asked for the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) distribution, which would be a 75-25 percent split with the county and the cities. The LOST distribution was agreed to in 2012 and lasts through 2020.
“We have gotten together and we believe the LOST distribution is a more equitable distribution for the entire community,” Johnston said. “We also believe it’s extremely important that we come out of this with a united front so we have pretty good shot at this getting this passed.”
Chapman said Porterdale, in particular, is an example of a city deserving more than it received in 2011.
“I think we have come a long way and for the county to look on that as having no value is a mistake,” Chapman said. “Essentially you want us to go on with the same numbers as we did when it was a dump.
“I think just to expect us to take what we’ve always gotten, even when we were a dump is showing a lack of the county’s value of what we’ve done in Porterdale," she said.
Ellis then asked for a recess and met with Henderson, Schulz and Sims to come back with a number for negotiations. The commissioners met two at a time with the chair to avoid forming a quorum, which would allow a vote to be taken, violating Sunshine Laws that prohibit elected and public officials from meeting as a quorum behind closed doors.
After returning from the recess, Ellis offered 21.28 percent to the cities, to be divided how they see fit.
The cities then countered with a split of 22 percent to the cities and 78 percent to the county.
No formal agreement was made, but the sides parted ways amicably, discussing the idea of meeting once a quarter to keep lines of communications open.
“We will have to find a way for the cities and county to work together,” Sims said. “There’s a lot of projects we can do together to make our community better. Hopefully, this is the start of mending that relationship and having long, strong relationship.”
The next step in the SPLOST process is for an intergovernmental agreement to be signed between the five municipalities and the county and for the cities to compile a list of projects they would like to see put on the ballot.
“This is a big uphill battle in this community right now to get this thing passed,” Johnston said.
Tasked with helping to get the 2017 SPLOST passed is the SPLOST committee, which was named by the BOC during its public meeting Tuesday night.
Committee members and the district they've been named from are: Chair - George Clackum, Donna Edwards and Danny Stone; District 1 - Jim Tudor, Bob Stafford, Betsy Morehouse and Leigh Anne Barrett; District 2 - Kevin Norman, Veda Miller, Marcello Banes and Glenn Dowling; District 3 - James Johnson, Addison Cook, LeAnne Long and June McDowell; District 4 - Archie Shepherd, Willie James Smith, J.C. Henderson and Reginald Reed; District 5 - Ralph Staffins, Baxter Bouchillon, Randy Vinson and Hillary Edgar.