Barrow County commissioner Steve Worley said he had hoped for relief from legislation allowing cities and counties, with voter approval, to use SPLOST proceeds collected for projects such as the cultural arts center that have not been built for county debt reduction.
But he was both surprised and disappointed to learn that prior to passage, the bill was amended to require that any referendum to drop a SPLOST project would have to be taken only at the time of a SPLOST renewal vote.
Barrow County’s renewal vote was March 15, which means it will be six years before the county government would be able to ask voters for approval to tap the $3 million already collected for the cultural arts center that likely never will be built.
Since the Barrow Journal reported the snafu, county commissioners have been blasted in local blogs for holding the March 15 SPLOST renewal vote without knowing about the effect of its timing on the provisions of HB240.
However, Clint Mueller, the legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said this week that the bill didn’t start out with such a restriction and the language was changed at the end of the session.
Mueller said his agency’s legislative notices to counties also did not mention the change and even in the “plain language” of the legislation, the connection to a SPLOST renewal vote is not clear.
Said Worley: “That House bill didn’t start out that way. I was following that bill and even ‘til the end, I didn’t know until I went to an ACCG conference in Savannah… I found out you couldn’t do it except when voters passed a SPLOST renewal. I got up and talked to Clint then and told him the situation we were in, and he said it can be revisited at the next legislative session to change it. If it is changed, he said you can have an election and do it then. If not, if you are not going to do a project, the money will sit in the bank until you do the next SPLOST vote.”