Fayette to go with ‘Plan B’ after stormwater SPLOST goes down the drain

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    Property owners in unincorporated areas to get bills before Christmas

    Fourteen percent of Fayette County’s registered voters turned out Tuesday, and a majority gave a thumbs down to a one-cent special sales tax targeted mostly for stormwater projects in the county.

    The final unofficial tally was 5,522 (57.18 percent) against to 4,135 (42.82 percent) in favor.

    The first-ever countywide two-year Special Local Option Sales Tax would have funded $16.8 million in stormwater projects in the unincorporated county.

    It also would have provided $14 million in road and cart path maintenance for Peachtree City and $6.7 million for a variety of projects in Fayetteville. Previous SPLOSTs have been for five years or more.

    So what now?

    Fayette County’s answer: “… (T)he Board of Commissioners are proceeding with ‘Plan B’ for stormwater solutions with a reworked Stormwater Utility program, using revised credits, with the statements being mailed as early as the end of November,” according to a news release from County Clerk Floyd Jones on behalf of the County Commission Wednesday afternoon.

    The county also was emphatic that it will pay for the projects via fees charged to property owners rather than by raising the ad valorem property tax rates.

    Fayetteville officials only reluctantly signed on to the SPLOST project list, but more than one Peachtree City Council member made no secret of their desire for the extra money that would have required no city budget pain.

    Now, without the sales tax, Peachtree City officials will have to find an additional estimated $1.5 million in the budget each year to pay for road and cart path improvements. Such projects have been paid for with proceeds from the 2004 countywide transportation SPLOST, and those funds were exhausted this year. City residents already pay a twice-yearly stormwater fee.

    As an alternative, the city could look at bond financing to be repaid by the general fund or perhaps to a straight property tax increase, officials have said. Others have suggested further cuts to the city budget to accommodate the road and cart path repairs.

    But county officials were ready when the bad news became apparent Tuesday nights. Here’s the county’s news release in full:

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    Fayette County moves forward with “Plan B” on stormwater solutions

    Fayette County, Georgia, November 6, 2013 – Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners held three Stormwater Town Hall meetings to hear concerns and receive feedback on solutions from Fayette’s citizens.

    As a result of citizen comment in those meetings, the Commissioners called for a SPLOST initiative to rectify the County’s failing stormwater infrastructure.

    Given that the countywide Core Infrastructure SPLOST was not approved, the Board of Commissioners are proceeding with “Plan B” for stormwater solutions with a reworked Stormwater Utility program, using revised credits, with the statements being mailed as early as the end of November.

    County Manager Steve Rapson stated, “I appreciate all of the hard work, countless hours, meetings and analysis to arrive at our prioritized stormwater project list. The Board of Commissioners has vowed to address these serious problems and staff did an outstanding job in short-order to pull our detailed project list together.”

    Commissioner David Barlow echoed his agreement with Mr. Rapson. “The county government has a sound, vetted list of stormwater projects, prioritized and ready to undertake. That planning will not go to waste as the county proceeds with projects in much smaller increments. The next step is sending the 2013 billing which was delayed waiting on the referendum vote. County staff will begin the process of matching projects against available funding.”

    Commissioner Allen McCarty said, “We had a citizens’ recommended plan to fix the problems we inherited. The voters did not like the plan; therefore, the County will have to resume collecting stormwater fees.”

    The Fayette County Board of Commissioners would to like to thank those who took their time to attend meetings, speak with staff, to research the issues, and to make an informed decision on the direction of the county.

    The Board pledges to move forward in a continuing partnership with its citizens for the betterment of the county and will do its best to bring the aging infrastructure back into a state of good repair.

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