The county SPLOST is a four-year program with collections beginning Jan. 1, 2012, and ending Dec 31, 2015.
Of the total $492.1 million in anticipated collections, the county has collected $151.9 million to date, an amount that has exceeded projections by $13.8 million, said the county’s finance director, Jim Pehrson.
County Chairman Tim Lee said the county would likely wait until the fourth year of the SPLOST program before deciding what to do with any excess revenues.
Pehrson said when the county staff were projecting the amount of sales tax that would be collected prior to the voter referendum in March 2011, they were cautious about how much sales tax revenue would be generated coming out of the worst recession in decades.
“We were conservative,” he said. “We projected back in 2011, and there was still a lot of economic uncertainty.”
Now that the economy has picked back up, revenues are good, he said.
But Pehrson said Georgia’s new car tax law will have a negative impact on SPLOST revenues.
“We are no longer going to get sales tax on vehicles purchased at dealerships,” he said. “That will hurt the SPLOST. The sales tax is no longer going to be collected and turned over to the state, which then gives it to the county and the local governments.”
Speaking of the $13.8 million surplus, Pehrson said, “I would say that that’s a nice cushion to have in place as we move forward with the implementation of this bill and the loss of the sales tax dollars off of motor vehicle sales.”
Pehrson said he was not yet sure how severe the impact from the car tax law would be.
“We need to trend out what data we’re getting from the state and see how the trends go over the next few months, and then we can gauge better the impact of that on our revenue collections,” he said.
County spokesman Robert Quigley said it’s important to note that the county can only spend SPLOST collections on projects that are on the voter-approved list.
Is south Cobb getting its fair share?
During the presentation, Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director, displayed a map of Cobb County that had a red dot for each SPLOST-funded project the county has been working on.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid took issue with the map.
“If you look at the map of where projects are occurring, what projects have been completed, what projects are under construction, you see a lot of activity in the northeast part of the county,” said Cupid, who represents south Cobb. “The activity in the southwest part of the county is sparse, and for the southwest district to continue to support SPLOST, I think it’s going to be difficult to have confidence that they’re going to get similar attention as other parts of the county when there’s evidence that there’s projects that don’t appear to be moving forward as quickly as other areas.”
Cupid asked DiMassimo if she could assure the south Cobb residents that their projects were being taken care of.
“That’s an excellent question,” DiMassimo said, noting that many of the south Cobb projects are now in the preconstruction phase.
“For example, some of these other projects could be projects that previously had some funding that was already there committed to them to move forward with design, and now these are the projects that are getting design dollars, so their construction is coming a bit later, so it’s in large measure driven by the project development process,” DiMassimo said. “But I understand your concern, and we’ll be glad to give you the specific schedules on all those projects so you can help with making sure the public is aware exactly where they’re going to be delivered and so forth.”
Cupid slow with appointments
Cupid acknowledged responsibility for dragging her feet on making the two dozen appointments to the various county boards and agencies to represent her district, something she has not yet done since taking office Jan. 1.
“Thank you, and I know I need to do my part,” Cupid said, noting that several of her appointments to the SPLOST 2011 Oversight Committee are vacant.
“It’s my desire to see those filled within the next month so we can get some advocacy in some other areas so we can move projects along,” she said.