A called meeting of the city of Jasper’s council last night met two objectives: to set the millage rate and to accept the Board of Commissioners’ offer of 20 percent of the proposed S.P.L.O.S.T. (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) revenue.The millage rate for Jasper was kept at 4.69 although admissions of it being a tight budget were as unanimous as the vote to retain the current rate. Now all that remains to be done is for C.F.O. Lisa Hoyle and the budget committee to work those numbers into the budget at that rate.
The discussion wasn’t as brief nor as benign when it came to the topic of the S.P.L.O.S.T. The Board of Commissioners submitted an intergovernmental agreement to the city offering 20 percent of all revenue collection for a six-year period. City attorney Bill Pickett said the form of the document was acceptable but was openly critical of the terms.
“The city’s the one that generates the sales tax, we’re the ones that have the businesses in it, we’re the ones that have to pave the streets to travel on, we’re the ones who have to provide the police department, fire trucks and everything else…the citizens of Jasper pay for it and they’re only wanting to give us 20 percent.”
Mayor John Weaver followed with the statement that the legislature makes the rules and regulations but within those, by the city participating it gives the county the ability to extend the SPLOST from five to six years and the city limited negotiating power.
“It only gives us the ability to plead with the county commissions our case that we are the keeper of the fire, the police and the public services for the businesses, not only the residents of Jasper. The population of Pickens County would like for the city of Jasper to prosper so that we can continue to be the goose that lays the eggs,”
Weaver, correctly, said because of the new county courthouse on the previous S.P.L.O.S.T. they received no money. But because the county doesn’t have plans for any more level one projects and are now moving into phase II, the city will see a disbursement. The county’s portion of the money, as related by council member Jim Looney, would be used for road projects, water/sewer, the library and public safety. The county anticipates around a $30 million revenue collection from the SPLOST if approved.
But the city rejected the revenue projection the county made. Jim Looney said,
“Looking at the history, I would be awfully afraid to do much budgeting on the $30 million. Historically, we would be looking at about $24 million. Instead of being the $6 million that you really wanted it’s going to come out about $4.8 unless some tremendous economic growth occurs.”
All council members were invited to speak and all seemed critical of the county’s proposition.
Looney expressed displeasure over the city’s lack of bargaining power due to legislative rules and hopes that in the future they will be given more consideration while admitting the city would benefit from the agreement.
Council member John Foust spoke up,
“If the county had more foresight they could see this is where the people are traveling up and down our roads. They’re coming down city streets and our business sections. We’re representing Pickens County.”
He further said the disrepair of the city streets
“is kinda embarrassing. It would’ve been nice if we’d gotten a little more money to put toward roads. But I’m like Jim. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Tony Fountain, Anne Morrow and Alison Brown agreed with the views expressed by Looney and Foust.
Weaver did admit that whatever amount is ultimately collected is more than they’ve had to work with than any amount since he’s been in office. He said the conservative $4 million approach they’re cautiously budgeting for can be utilized in a way to make Jasper look good.
When Looney made the motion to accept the county’s 20 percent offer, Weaver replied,
“We have a motion to accept the county’s generous offer of 20 percent, sarcastically.”
He then laughed and asked for a second which was offered by Brown. After inviting discussion in which no one participated, he stated,
“It sounds like we’ve beat it (a dead horse) to death already.”
The vote to accept the county’s offer was unanimous.