Tift County and City of Tifton administrators hope to earn local governments $59 million with a new proposed sales tax.

The Tift County Board of Commissioners will vote Jan. 19, 2006, on whether to pass a resolution calling for a March 21, 2006, special referendum vote on Special Local Option Sales Tax IV. Tift County voters would then decide the fate of the SPLOST and its estimated revenue of $59 million for the county and its municipalities.

The current one-cent county sales tax ends in one year, and SPLOST IV would take its place in January 2007 and last for six years.

“SPLOST programs allow Tift County and the cities of Tift County to make significant capital improvements that would otherwise be delayed or never constructed,” said county manager Bill Park. “The fact that 40 percent of our sales tax revenues are collected from purchasers who live outside of Tift County also makes it much more favorable than paying for these improvements through local property taxes.”

The county oversees the SPLOST, but the county staff worked closely with the cities of Tifton, Ty Ty and Omega in preparing the SPLOST proposal. Different governments and agencies presented requests for funds totaling $83 million. The county then trimmed the requests to recommended levels within the bounds of the estimated $59 million revenue of the tax. The recommended revenues for each government are still being discussed and will ultimately be decided by the Board of Commissioners.

Nearly half of the SPLOST revenue, more than $25.71 million, has been recommended for joint Tifton-Tift County projects. The recommendations also have the county receiving $12.25 million, Tifton receiving over $8.18 million, and Ty Ty and Omega receiving $1.8 million each. Eight million dollars has been earmarked for economic development projects. The Tifton-Tift County Public Library stands to receive $250,000, while a Community Health Center owned by the county but operated by Tift Regional Medical Center is scheduled to receive $500,000.

“SPLOST is really designed for capital investments like roads, buildings and bridges — those types of facilities,” said Park.

Some of the joint efforts include more than $7.03 million for sewer upgrades, $5.2 million for water upgrades, $3.2 million for a new E-911 center on Carpenter Road, $2.3 million for recreation improvements and $2.66 million for fire department improvements including building a new Chula Fire Station.

The majority of county dollars, $11 million, is planned for paving roads. Park said that there are over $50 million worth of roads to pave in the county, so the $11 million will only scratch the surface. He said that SPLOST works well with road projects because SPLOST dollars can be leveraged with state grant money, which could mean millions more for the county.

“We have focused on essential government functions like roads and drainage, recreation, emergency services, wastewater and economic development,” Park said. “Technology upgrades and additions were also an area where significant dollars were recommended. Less than five percent has been recommended for governmental facilities.”

Some of Tifton’s proposed projects include $2.67 million for streets, $2.5 million for drainage replacements and $1 million for City Hall renovations.

“Overall, we’re pretty well pleased, with a few exceptions,” said Tifton city manager Charlie Howell.

Howell would not elaborate on the “exceptions” while Tifton and the county were still negotiating the final SPLOST proposal. With a month left in the negotiations, the final numbers could change significantly.

“Hopefully, whatever differences we have will be settled and we can present a united front when the SPLOST is formally proposed,” Howell said.

Another possible point of negotiation comes from another city — Ty Ty. The city had asked $3.2 million to install a new wastewater system under pressure from the state Environmental Protection Division. Possibly facing fines if a solution is not found, the city is only scheduled to receive $1.8 million from the SPLOST.

Park said that elected officials would be discussing several options for Ty Ty, including tying the city’s sewer system in with the systems for either Tifton or Tift County.

To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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