Rabun SPLOSTS, Facts & Fiction
A special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) is a financing method for funding capital outlay projects in Georgia. It is an optional 1% sales tax levied by any county for the purpose of funding the building of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities. All projects on the ballot must be approved by a majority of voters.
What is the History of Rabun County Splosts?
What are the SPLOST Guidelines for Georgia
SPLOST regulations are dictated by Georgia Law and Counties and Cities must follow these laws. Reporting of SPLOST expenditures by category is required by law. Many other regulations prohibit Government entities from the self-serving use of these funds. Counties are not permitted to tell Voters they are paying the tax to pay for x and they spend it on y. A well recognized guide for County officials to use in administering a SPLOST was produced by a non-profit called ACCG or Association County Commissioners of Georgia in 2016. This is an important tool produced for all Georgia Counties in administration of their SPLOST and adherence to Georgia Law.
How much of this tax is paid by Rabun County residents?
Some proponents of the current SPLOST stated that 75% of the sales tax collected for the SPLOST comes from outside travellers thru Rabun County. Later they revised that statement to "more than 50%" per the E Newsletter from Rabun County. A second E Newsletter sent out by Rabun County on March 1 removed the claim all together. They unfairly present a case that the tax is mostly paid by other persons so why care so much. A study in 2010 performed by the University of Georgia on all counties suprisingly concluded just the opposite. It found that 75% of the sales tax was in FACT paid by Rabun County residents. We have updated this report thru 2016 and it now shows 83% is paid by Rabun County residents. These are still indicators however because no report will ever be able to show the exact number. We do believe the 2016 analysis we have done to be more realistic than the 50% to 75% used at first by the County, since they state no source report for their data.
How do I find out more detail about what the County plans to spend this money on?
One thing the Rabun County Alliance has been able to determine with regards to the use of the current SPLOST #7 was found in an interview with the County Administrator. A Town Hall Meeting is planned February 28th at 6:30 to discuss the SPLOST. The County is required to publish in the local newspaper prior to the vote the amount of the SPLOST and it's categories showing how the money will be spent. The ballot that will be presented to voters mostly lists categories of spending like FIRE, not project definitions. The County has an obligation to place the electorate on fair notice of the projects to which the tax will be devoted.
How do other Counties communicate to Voters on SPLOSTS prior to Voting
Other Counties hold Public Input Meetings prior to the SPLOST vote in order for the County to present their case for the Capital Outlay Items they intend to use the money for. This gives voters a good idea on what the money will be used for. Counties deploy a variety of ways of describing their projects, but most we have seen are more specific definitions. Here are two examples from Hall County. One is the outline for a public presentation made to Voters. Another is the actual detail of what the money would be spent on.
Has Rabun County finalized the SPLOST #7 request? If so when?
Attached you will find that the Rabun County Commissioners voted on SPLOST#7 on October 18,2018 and it shows the total request along with the Categories and associated amounts.
Are there any funds left from SPLOST #6 to be spent? If so what categories.
The short answer is yes. Rabun County published these numbers in the Clayton Tribune on December 13,2018 showing the expenditures as of June 30,2018. Please note that Roads & Bridges show that no funds have been expended as of that date (after several years) yet they show a completion date of this project by September 30,2019. The RCA recently received updated numbers from the County regarding SPLOST 6 as of January , 2019. Click here for this report.
Can unspent funds be transferred from one project to another?
Funds can only be transferred from one project to other projects if the transferring project is completed and has funds remaining. The RCA has previously complained to the County about this issue, especially with regards to the category Roads & Bridges. See the attached ad purchased by Rabun County concerning SPLOST's 3,4,5 and 6 and in the Clayton Tribune on March 14, 2013 which would have been just before the SPLOST 6 Vote. It clearly shows funds being transferred due to overuns in other projects. Also, note the projects defined in SPLOST 6 at the bottom of the page. Are these projects complete after 5 years?
Is Rabun County required to report the status of these SPLOST expenditures to the State of Georgia?
The County prepares a Supplementary Report in it's audited financial statements each year on June 30. These Reports are provided to the State of Georgia. There are no quarterly updates to voters that we are aware of. Click below for the most recent reports submitted as of June 30,2018.
What economic impact does this tax have on the average Rabun taxpaper ?
SPLOST is a one percent sales tax collected on items subject to the sales and use tax within Rabun county. The SPLOST is also imposed on the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages, which are not subject to the state sales tax, and is also imposed on the sale of alcoholic beverages. SPLOST also applies to sales of motor fuels collected at the distributor level. This tax has nothing to do with a separate Education of Lost SPLOST. This SPLOST covers capital outlays generally identified to you by the county. What does 1% mean to the average person or family's pocket over the 6 year term of a SPLOST?
What have other Georgia Counties done to monitor their SPLOST taxes?
Many other counties in Georgia have Citizens Advisory Committees that work with the County on SPLOST. Their mission is to make sure funds from a SPLOST are well managed and used effeciently by Government and that Revenue collected under SPLOST is spent in accordance with State of Georgia SPLOST law. The would also provide as necessary and appropriate, advice, reviews, reports and recommendations to the public, the County Administrator, the Board of Commissioners, the Independant External Auditor and the County CFO on SPLOST spending, budgets, and projects. An example of one type report is attached. The RCA strongly recommends a Citizens Advisory Committee for Rabun County.
How does the RCA rate the performance of the Rabun County Government with regards to past SPLOSTS
We would like to report that things have changed with regards to County management of SPLOST’s, but cannot. We have a long history with the County on SPLOSTS, critical of them in how they advise voters on how their money will be spent and why. The County must exercise more transparency and fiscal responsibility in managing taxpayer money in SPLOST management. Recent other events related to SDS, Water Wars, excessive Reserve Funds, increased Property Taxes and the costly Business Park all point to a never-ending cycle of voter questions and unhappiness. Click here to see the RCA History attached with regards to previous SPLOST issues.
The proposed SPLOST 7 Budget has $4,000,000 for a Jail expansion, Do we need a jail expansion?
The current jail or detention center was built in 2005 out of SPLOST 4 proceeds. The jail is located at 175 Boen Creek Rd. in Tiger GA. Click here for an aerial showing the current jail which holds 102 beds. The jail was constructed at a cost of $6,655,408 or $65,249 per bed. The SPLOST 4 budget was for $4,000,000 and the jail ended up being $2,655,408 over budget. This overage was transferred from the Roads and Bridges budget. The current SPLOST has a budget of $4,000,000 for the construction of 60 beds or $66,000 per bed. Sheriff Nichols had an interview with the Clayton Tribune on February 20,2019 in which he outlined the need for the expansion. In addition he noted a needs study conducted by the Georgia Sheriff's assocation in October, 2018 for Rabun County.
Is SPLOST 5 from 2008 still outstanding? Why?
SPLOST 5 began in 2008 has now closed per recent information received from the County on February 22, 2019. Several categories were overbudget in this SPLOST. The Rabun Arena came in almost $1.5 million overbudget. The total overbudget for all categories was $2.2 million funded mostly by a transfer out of Roads and Bridges. The difference of almost $1 was funded by the County general fund (comprised mostly of your property taxes) See the report here.