HAMPTON – Several hours after the Henry County Board of Commissioners ruled in favor of a 75/25 split of special purpose local option sales tax revenues, combined with a demand for the county’s four cities to have a project list and sign an intergovernmental agreement within 10 days, one city manager expressed frustration with the county’s moves.
Alex Cohilas, Hampton city manager, called the county’s move a “nuclear option” during Tuesday’s Hampton City Council meeting, which took place a few hours after the BOC’s vote.
Cohilas explained that the cities have been wanting to get what they view as a more equitable portion of the SPLOST pie. Cohilas said the four cities make up just slightly less than 30% of the county’s total population.
That claim is backed up by data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, which showed the combined 2010 population of all four cities at 60,109, or 29.4% of the county’s 2010 population of 203,922.
“By the time SPLOST V ends in 2026, they may make up as much as 34 or 35% of the county’s population,” Cohilas said.
Currently, the SPLOST revenue distribution is using numbers from the 2010 census, numbers that could be as much as 16 years old by the time SPLOST V ends, should it be approved by voters this November.
According to a presentation at the meeting, Hampton, with a population of 6,987 as of 2010, would get 2.91% of the SPLOST V revenue, or $7,119,629.
According to Cohilias’s presentation, a 70/30 split of SPLOST proceeds would be more proportional based on population totals from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Stockbridge, the largest city by population in Henry County, had a 2010 population of 25,636, or 12.6% of the entire county’s population. The proposed 70/30 split would give it $31,347,153 in SPLOST revenue, or 12.79%.
McDonough, the second-largest city in the county, had a 2010 population of 22,084, or 10.8% of the county’s population. The cities’ split would give McDonough $27,003,843, or 11.02% of the projected sales tax revenue.
Hampton, the third-largest city in Henry County, would receive $8,543,554, or 3.49% of SPLOST V revenue. Hampton’s population in 2010 represented 3.4% of the entire county’s population.
Locust Grove, the fourth-largest city in the county, would receive $6,605,450, or 2.7% of the sales tax’s revenue. Locust Grove’s 2010 population was 5,402, or 2.6% of the county’s population.
According to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia’s SPLOST guide, the state SPLOST law does not determine the basis for population, but the only population figures officially recognized by the state of Georgia are the figures taken during the U.S. Census every 10 years.
The cities have asked for a larger piece of the revenues from the proposed SPLOST V, while Henry County has remained adamant that the revenues will remain split at 75/25, which is to say 75% of revenues would go to the county, and 25% would be split between the four cities.
In fact, the county officials have stated they would not support an intergovernmental agreement with a 70/30 split. Without an intergovernmental agreement, the program not only drops from six years to five years, but the county would be able to take 20% “off the top” before the cities would get any sales tax revenue.
The argument from the county is that it has built the SPLOST using the 75/25 split since the process began last March, and that it is too late in the game to change it.
Following a recent meeting between the county and all four cities, County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews said the county has worked since last July under the assumption that SPLOST V would be a 75/25 split.
The county’s Citizen SPLOST Committee was formed at that time and held its first meetings late that month. According to minutes of the SPLOST Committee meetings, the 75/25 split first came up in the committee’s meeting on Oct. 4.
According to those minutes, and minutes from past meetings, that marked the first time the county mentioned a 75/25 split in relation to SPLOST V. On multiple occasions before that Oct. 4 meeting, the 75/25 split had been mentioned, but it was mentioned in regards to SPLOST IV, the current sales tax being collected.
Cohilas said he and the other city managers received an email from Matthews after 6 p.m. on Friday, May 31, concerning the city’s share of SPLOST revenues, as well as a list of dates that were seen as “hard deadlines” for the cities to approve the revenue split and the intergovernmental agreement.
“The email wanted us to be prepared to have a meet and greet and a signed IGA and pictures taken by June 18,” he said.
On Friday morning, the county indicated there had been no conversations with city officials since Tuesday. Officials declined to comment on the proposed 70/30 split.