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DeKalb County hosting SPLOST meeting with cities on Aug. 18

Avondale Estates Decatur DeKalb County

DeKalb County hosting SPLOST meeting with cities on Aug. 18

DeKalb County Government Manuel J. Maloof Center in downtown Decatur. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County is hosting a meeting with the cities at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, at the Maloof Auditorium to discuss the upcoming special purpose local option sales tax.

The Manuel Maloof Center Auditorium is located at 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.

“The purpose of the meeting will be to provide the governing authorities of the county and each qualified municipality the opportunity to discuss the implementation of SPLOST and EHOST and possible projects,” County CEO Michael Thurmond wrote in a letter to the county commissioners that was shared with Decaturish.

Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant said the meeting is open to the public.

The county is considering calling a referendum for SPLOST II and equalized homestead option sales tax questions to be on the ballot in November. In DeKalb, the SPLOST and EHOST are tied together.

“One has to be in place for the other. If the SPLOST went away, the EHOST would go away, and vice versa,” DeKalb lobbyist Dan Baskerville previously said.

The Georgia General Assembly passed a bill this year that allows DeKalb County to use funds from its special purpose local option sales tax toward parks and libraries, in addition to transportation.

Under the current SPLOST, 85% of the funds have to go toward transportation and public safety and 15% goes toward capital outlay projects. House Bill 431 removed that requirement, but did not increase the tax rate.

“In removing that language, that just allows DeKalb to fully utilize its SPLOST to be able to use it on libraries and parks basically, like all the other counties in the state,” state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) said during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on March 15. “We’ll just broaden the pool. Transportation would still be an important consideration, but allow the public to have some input into the process.”

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Michael Thurmond previously said that the county sought to expand the number of capital investments it can make.

“During the last six years, we’ve surfaced over 250 miles of the worst streets and roads in DeKalb County, Georgia,” Thurmond said. “We’re going to continue to focus on that, but we also need to make investments in parks, senior centers and libraries as well because that’s so important to protecting the quality of life in any county, particularly in DeKalb.”

If SPLOST II is approved by voters, it would begin in April 2024. SPLOST I will expire in March 2024, Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold said.

The city of Decatur anticipates receiving about $27 million under SPLOST II, Arnold said during the Decatur City Commission meeting on Aug. 7.

“We are committed to paying debt service over that six-year period of just over $12 million. That does still leave $15 million of the $27 million for other projects,” Arnold said.

Decatur is looking at two categories, which are transportation, and cultural and recreational facilities.  The cultural and recreational facilities category would capture recommendations coming out of the newly adopted downtown master plan and parks and recreation master plan.

A certain dollar amount would be set for each category, and the city commission could use some time at its annual strategic planning retreat to prioritize projects, Arnold said.

The Avondale Estates City Commission discussed SPLOST at its Aug. 9 work session.

“Right now, all of the member organizations, the municipalities in the county, are preparing to develop a final [intergovernmental agreement] that specifies the distribution percentages,” Bryant said. “It is anticipated that the SPLOST tax will generate approximately $125 million per year, with a theorized 2% growth over the six-year period in which the tax will be collected.”

The Avondale Estates City Commission is considering a ballot question that would allow the city to spend the funding in three areas – transportation, stormwater infrastructure, and public safety facilities, and capital equipment.

Transportation would include the construction, repair, and improvement of streets, roads, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.

Bryant added that public safety efforts are not exclusive to law enforcement. It also relates to public works and stormwater activities.

“Essentially, it would allow the SPLOST proceeds to be used for 95% of the types of capital work that the city would engage in,” Bryant said. “The legislation also requires the city to assign percentages to each of those categories for the purposes of the vote, however, those percentages can be changed throughout the lifespan of the SPLOST collection if needs change within the city.”

The county uses a formula to figure out how much SPLOST funding each city will receive, and it’s based on population. Bryant said there are some flaws in the formula.

“Basically, a city’s rewarded for their density,” Bryant said. “Since all of these monies can only be spent on capital projects, density isn’t necessarily a good measure of capital need. You have to also factor in land area.”

Bryant and Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore presented an alternative to the DeKalb Municipal Association. The four smallest DeKalb County cities – Avondale Estates, Pine Lake, Stone Mountain and Lithonia – have less than 1% of the population distribution of the county. Their SPLOST distribution would be increased to 1% of the total take of the SPLOST funding.

“That proposal was accepted by the DMA and has been proposed by the county,” Bryant said. “If our proposal is accepted, our distribution would increase from approximately $3.6 million over the six-year span to $7.2 million over the six-year span.”

Under SPLOST I, Avondale Estates’ distribution percentage was 0.445%, according to the county website. Avondale Estates’ total SPLOST I funding is estimated to be about $2.8 million. Pine Lake, Lithonia, and Stone Mountain distribution percentages were also less than 1% for SPLOST I.

The increased funding to the smallest cities would come at the expense of the county’s SPLOST collection and would not take funding away from other cities, Bryant added.

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