The Jackson County Commission discussed different options to try and solve its financial problem at a work session Monday afternoon.
District 4 Commissioner Mike Sisk wanted to address the county’s need for money. He wanted to talk about a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST). He said some counties in Georgia use a SPLOST for different projects. Sisk said the SPLOST would not bring anything into the county’ general fund, but it would help with road and bridge repair. He said the county’s situation had “become grim” and that “little potholes have turned into big potholes.”
Sisk said he has met with the legislative delegation several different times trying to come up with a solution. Members of the commission met with the delegation last week to discuss how to come up with funding.
“I’m not a tax man, but in order for us to move forward, I don’t see anything we can do,” said Sisk.
Sisk’s proposal would put a one cent sales tax on the ballot for the people of Jackson County to vote for or against. The proposal, if approved by the commission, would be sent to the legislative delegation. It would have to be voted on by the delegation as soon as the legislative session resumes, if it resumes.
Sisk said the SPLOST would bring in $6 million a year, and it would be on a six-year sunset provision. If it received a favorable vote of the people this year, it would be voted on again in six years. Sisk said he would bring in the municipalities in on the SPLOST, and the county’s share would be $4,575,402.05 for repairs on roads and bridges.
Sisk said something needs to be done with the roads in Jackson County, and a SPLOST would be a good start. He said it would need to be ready by July 1.
District 2 Commissioner Jason Venable responded with a list of 13 things to help remedy the county’s financial issue the commission has discussed in his eight years in office. Those consisted of a one cent sales tax, shared sales tax with education, an increase in lodging tax county wide alcohol sales, an increase in vehicle tag fees and raising the county wide sales tax to nine cents, which would exclude the municipalities.
Venable said a SPLOST does good things, and it would do a great deal for infrastructure in Jackson County. He said it would not address the county’s employees, the difficulty the Sheriff’s Office has in retaining deputies, the county’s employee turnover rate and it would do nothing to sure up senior citizen programs in the county.
“It doesn’t give the commission any more tools to do anything to help our county grow,” said Venable.
Venable said if a SPLOST was put on the ballot, he would vote in favor of it. He followed that up by saying as a county commissioner, he could not stand up and ask for something that would not help all issues in the county.
“Those have to be addressed. Those are our responsibility, and we’re falling short of being able to take care of our responsibilities,” said Venable.
Venable said he would be in favor of a SPLOST if it was coupled with something that would take care of other issues within the county.
Commission Chairman Tim Guffey said the commission recently passed a resolution for a one cent sales tax to be placed on the ballot that would be earmarked, that would do road projects but at the same time would take care of the other issues Venable mentioned.
Venable said that resolution had a permanent sales tax, and the delegation was against it. He understands why they are against it, but he also said the delegation does not need the commission’s permission to put a SPLOST on the ballot.
“They’re not handcuffed by us,” said Venable.
Guffey said he was against a SPLOST because it does not fix the county’s overall problem. He also said it would be difficult to get road projects done with the SPLOST because the road department is down seven employees, and he does not see how the county could hire more people when they know there is a chance they may not have a job after the SPLOST runs out.
Guffey said there is a chance the county could end up with a massive amount of money in the bank that it cannot use, and the citizens of the county would be upset.
“Doing something temporarily is just kicking the can down the road. It’s not fixing the problem. We need to fix the problem,” said Guffey.
He said that Jackson County needs a growth tax.