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SPLOST collections above projections
Money is $2.5 million over projecections
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If SPLOST collections continue to roll in like they have been, the county could collect $7.4 million more than projected, potentially moving up some projects’ timelines and providing more options for paying off future debt.
County Manager John Middleton provided an update to the Board of Commissioners on SPLOST collections and projects last week and said Newton County county had collected $21.68 million through June 2013, two full years after collections started for the 2011 SPLOST.

The 2011 SPLOST called for $57.6 million to be collected over six years, which would be $9.6 million per year. Collections have surpassed the $800,000 monthly projection every month, including topping $1 million in December of both 2011 and 2012.

However, Middleton noted collections have been down since the new, one-time car title fee went into effect March 2013, replacing the annual car tax, known colloquially as the “birthday tax,” for car purchases on and after March 1.
The new fee is 6.5 percent of the vehicle’s value at purchase (it increases to 6.75 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015), as determined by the state; the fee replaced the sales tax and annual tax Georgians used to pay when they purchased a car.

Collections are down 9.4 percent from March to June 2013 compared to the same period from 2012 

Middleton said it’s hard to tell what the long-term trend will be with limited data, and he expected to have a better idea by the end of 2013.
Middleton gave commissioners an update on each project’s collections through June 2013 and the amount spent through August 2013.

Miracle League field
The county has collected $563,749 toward the $1.5 million set aside for Newton County’s Miracle League field – a softball field designed for special-needs children – and has spent $308,325 of its SPLOST money to date. The Newton County Recreation Commission received a loan from Newton Federal Bank to pay for construction ahead of time.

Recreation facility and park improvements
The county collected $377,278 for various recreation projects, and $137,638 has been spent through June, with most of that going to upgrading the 14.5-acre Stone Road complex, Middleton said. Plans called for new fencing and dugouts at a cost of $150,000, upgrades to the restroom and concession area for $75,000, and irrigation for $15,000.
Other recreation projects to be completed include City Pond Complex, Turner Lake Complex, Louise Fowler Park and Beaver Park.

District 4 parks
No money has been spent on any projects for District 4, but $188,640 has been collected. The plan was to buy property for parks in the neighborhoods of Settlers Grove and Dinah Pace and to buy playground equipment for the Victoria’s Station neighborhood for a total of $500,000.

Indigent cemetery
No money has been spent, and Middleton said the county will likely need to collect the entire $55,000 allocated for an indigent cemetery before any work can be completed. There are a few burial spots remaining at Factory Shoals Park, where paupers are buried now, Middleton said.

Emergency room expansion
Middleton said the hospital is not ready to move forward with an expansion because of the economy; Commissioner Nancy Schulz said the hospital may also see changes as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which could also affect plans.
The emergency room expansion has $4 million budgeted; $1.5 million has been collected.

Judicial Center expansion
More money will be needed before construction can start on the $7 million expansion, though $67,716 of the $2.63 million collected has been spent on architectural costs.

New Leaf Center
This workforce development center in the Walkers’ Bend subdivision is being built by the county, but operation is being overseen by the city of Covington and Covington Housing Authority. The $545,000 project has had $205,985 collected and $169,203 spent to date.

Animal Control
The county has $100,000 to expand the animal control facilities on Lower River Road, but Middleton said that money would be only a “band-aid.” He said officials are looking at maybe adding a modular structure for administration and viewing space, as that may be the “best bang for the buck.” Collections are $36,860 through June.

Juvenile Court space
No money is expected to be spent until more of the $500,000 budgeted is collected for an evening reporting center. The location is to be determined, Middleton said; $188,640 has been collected.

Historic Jail
The Historic Jail on Stalling Street is being turned into a museum, and the $1.2 million SPLOST allocation should complete the project, Middleton said. So far, $451,000 has been collected.

Debt service
The new pods (sections of cells) at the Newton County Detention Center, $3 million, and the Newton County Administration Building, $5 million, both had money set aside to pay off debt. The county has been making payments on both, Middleton said, with $1.35 million being spent on the jail and $2.49 million being spent on the administration building. The total payments should nearly pay off the jail debt, but the administration building will have to have debt paid off from other sources, potentially including money left over from the 2005 SPLOST.
There is also $500,000 of debt budgeted to pay toward a $4 million state loan taken to expand the landfill; $188,640 has been collected through June.

County equipment
Various equipment, including a Gradall, has been purchased using SPLOST funds and a lease-purchase program, as well as revenue from the sale of old equipment by the county; $344,360 has been spent out of an expected $602,492 ($500,000 SPLOST plus surplus sales).

Fleet replacement
The county has spent $1.24 million on lease-purchase for nearly 40 sheriff’s department cars, as well as vehicles for public works and other departments, Middleton said. The other half of the $2.5 million allotment will likely be spent on another lease-purchase in mid-2014.

Agriculture center
No money has been spent on the agriculture center, which has a $1.1 million SPLOST allotment. Middleton said a committee, chaired by the county’s extension agent Ted Wynne, is still working on site selection; $414,139 has been collected.

Fire station and equipment
No money has been spent on either a new fire station, $1.1 million budgeted, nor new fire equipment, $100,000. The station is expected to be built in northern Newton County and to replace a volunteer fire station with a professionally-staffed one.

The county put $17.28 million on the SPLOST for various road projects and $3.37 million has been spent to date.
The cities of Covington, Porterdale, Oxford, Newborn and Mansfield also received SPLOST funding, but they are handling their own accounting.