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Commissioners discuss SPLOST financing


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  The project list for SPLOST IV is a done deal, but last week’s Henry County Board of Commissioners meeting focused on funding details, and there are different opinions on the Board regarding how and when to access the sales tax money.

  Chairman Tommy Smith said Tuesday morning that the resolution ultimately approved called for $11.25 million to be financed, with more than $9 million going toward projects in District 5 and another $2 million-plus for the District 2 senior-recreation center.

  According to District 2 Commissioner Brian Preston, the board’s vote actually was that the amount in question “may be financed,” not that it was definite.

  A lot of talk lately has been about whether the county would bond some or all of the projected sales tax revenue to get money in hand quickly for certain projects, but that was not approved.

  The initial resolution presented at the meeting was for the entire project allotment for District 5 and Commissioner Bruce Holmes during the six-year SPLOST term - $19.8 million according to Smith – to be bonded. That measure failed.

  It was at this point that county finance director Fred Auletta presented an idea for a line of credit and presented some possible numbers. This, according to Preston, is what led to the board’s ultimate vote, which was to allow the county the option of a line of credit if it were deemed necessary.

  Preston said Auletta presented a plan that would allow, for a $2,500 underwriting fee, a credit line of $10-11 million at 1.75 percent. The actual amounts could change, but these numbers were based on recent research with actual banks. Preston would be willing to go along with such a plan under these circumstances.

  With projected revenues at about $275,000 per district per month over the six-year SPLOST term, it is virtually impossible to complete a project such as the $3.5 million senior-rec center without some type of financing, according to Preston, who added that his constituents were promised a senior center during the two previous SPLOST cycles.

  “I am with the taxpayers in that I want to be as stingy with debt as possible,” he said. “Some of these projects are bigger than what you can collect in a year, and when they are you have to figure out a way to do it. If not, some projects just won’t occur. I like that we are able to maximize some historically low interest rates and get some of them done.”

  One of the District 5 projects affected by possible financing is a new park at West Panola and Fairview Roads that involves a $4.6 million land purchase. Smith is on the record as being against any new land purchases by the current county administration.

  While the idea of buying more land has some local taxpayers upset, Preston said that is a different discussion entirely.

  “These projects have been out in front of the public for a year and a half, and that’s what the voters voted on,” said Preston. “We can’t change the project list.”

  As for the issue of borrowing money, Smith said that as of June 30 of last year the county owed $77 million.

  “And now we’re talking about $11 million more?” he asked. “We’re digging deeper.”



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