OXFORD, Ga. – Newton County Manager Lloyd Kerr met with leaders of Newton County’s cities Tuesday evening at the Oxford City Hall to discuss how the funds from a proposed T=SPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, would be divided and how an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the cities would be worded.
Jarrard & Davis attorney Sam Van Volkenburgh had briefed county commissioners about the proposed sales tax increase at the BOC work session April 16. At the meeting following the work session, commissioners gave Kerr the go-ahead to meet with cities to start the process for putting the measure on the ballot for a vote in November.
Representatives from Covington, Mansfield, Newborn, Oxford, Porterdale and Social Circle were given copies of the timeline prepared for commissioners for putting the proposed tax increase on this year’s November ballot. They were also given copies of the IGA between the cities and the county approved for last year’s SPLOST.
“My intention here tonight was to give you some information and then also to see if we can begin to move ahead on the T-SPLOST and whether or not we could just get a consensus,” Kerr said. “If you could speak to that, or whether you think we would need to go back renegotiate the IGA specifically for the TSPLOST funds.
“If that’s something obviously you need to carry back to your boards or your councils, then obviously we would answer that question at a later date.”
Van Volkenburgh said money generated from the county’s current SPLOST is spilt 78 percent for the county and 22 percent for the cities based on population.
“You may want to do the same just for the ease of administration or you may want to consider who has the major transportation needs and discuss a different ratio there,” he said.
Van Volkenburg said if no agreement is reached for dividing the money, a default distribution formula would be used.
“The default looks at the last three years in which an audit was done by the state,” he said. “Unlike a SPLOST, which is population-based, this would actually look at the finances found in a state audit and it would look at how much each city and the county spent on transportation for that year and then taking a ratio, it would apply that ratio to what we collect each year.”
Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said his suggestion would be a 75/25 split of funds.
“My first thought on this is that the default ought to be the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) distribution. We used population figures for everything else,” he said. “That LOST distribution is 75/25. That would be my suggestion.”
Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knighton agreed with Roseberry.
“Just to echo Jerry, and I can’t speak for them,” she said. “But I feel pretty certain our elected body would probably prefer to use the LOST numbers, the 75/25, and then the cities would work together like we did last time on distribution of the funds. Obviously, that would be in the IGA.”
Kerr said he thinks the county wants to move ahead with the measure.
“I think we definitely want to move ahead with this,” he said. “We would like to be able to get the IGA with everybody because of the fact the collection would be larger. Plus, we’ve so many eligible projects, just like you do.”
The city representatives agreed to take the information to their elected bodies for further discussion. According to the timeline provided by Van Volkenburg, the suggested deadline for approval of an IGA between the governments is June 5.