McDONOUGH — The Henry County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the 75/25 revenue split for the proposed SPLOST V referendum at Tuesday’s meeting, but the cities are not on board.
The motion made by Commissioner Dee Clemmons and passed 4-2 by the board called for the 75/25 split and required cities to present their project lists to the county within 10 days.
The 75/25 split would mean the county would receive 75% of the revenue from the SPLOST program, while the four cities — McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton and Locust Grove — would split the remaining 25% of the revenue.
Based off comments made by city officials from three of the four cities, those cities are not in favor of the 75/25 split.
“I will say to you that I and the city of Stockbridge are still interested in that 70/30 split,” said Anthony Ford, Stockbridge mayor. “I know you just passed a motion in reference for the (intergovernmental agreement) being 75/25, and we’re not really happy about that in that aspect.”
Ford was optimistic that the split wasn’t a done deal and said he was interested in meeting with the city’s three commissioners, Bruce Holmes, Clemmons and Vivian Thomas about the SPLOST IGA.
The city managers of Locust Grove and Hampton expressed concerns with the fact that SPLOST V would lock the cities in with population numbers from the 2010 census, taken nine years ago.
“The premise of the 75/25 split was, projects that are located in or near benefited everyone, and there’s questions about that, and we’re locked in for another six years without a census on population figures that will be more than doubled the size by the time this SPLOST period is over,” said Tim Young, Locust Grove city manager. “There’s some concerns and we’re still looking at the proposal.”
Alex Cohilas, city manager of Hampton, said his concerns came from an email sent from County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews stating the funding split would be based off those 2010 population figures.
“The county can’t have it both ways,” Cohilas said. “If you look at the very email that started this, these are her words. This is not off of any other city manager. Look at how Henry County wants the cities to subdivide their portion. These%ages are based off population. If you say population is the criteria, population has to be the criteria. End of discussion. Don’t change the rules.”
That email, sent by Matthews to all four city managers, was dated May 31 and stated the four cities would split the remaining 25% of the funds based on the 2010 census.
Under that proposal, Stockbridge would get 10.66% of the entire SPLOST V funds, or $26,117,000 over the six-year, $245 million program. McDonough would get 9.18%, or $22,491,000, Hampton would get 2.91%, or $7,129,500, and Locust Grove would get 2.25%, or $5,512,500.
County officials have stated that they would not commit to an intergovernmental agreement if the revenue split changes to 70% to the county and 30% to the cities.
June Wood, the chairwoman of the Henry County Board of Commissioners, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the county has operated with the belief that SPLOST V would be a 75/25 split since March of 2018.
If SPLOST V does turn out to be a 70/30 split, and the referendum is approved without an intergovernmental agreement, the program would be reduced from six years to five, per state law.
Proposed changes to countywide project list voted downOn multiple occasions, the Board of Commissioners considered changes to the countywide project list during the Tuesday meeting, but each proposed change was either voted down or died due to a lack of a second.
The first proposed change would have removed the county’s fleet replacement program and replaced it with two aquatic centers, one in the north side of the county and one in the south side of the county. That motion was amended to remove the proposed $10 million jail pod from the SPLOST program and move that to the county’s capital improvement list, reduce the $17.696 million fleet replacement program to $6 million, and install the two $11 million aquatic centers.
The fleet replacement program, which remained on the project list at the end of the meeting, involves the replacement of county vehicles, both belonging to the county’s public safety departments and other departments. Specific examples of vehicles that would be replaced under the program include police vehicles, fire trucks and tractors, among other things.
The removal of the jail pod was met with disapproval from some members of the BOC, such as Commissioner Johnny Wilson, who suggested the county would then have to hold a bond referendum to fund the projects, which he said would lead to increased taxes.
Brad Johnson, the assistant county manager, also said the county was hitting its maximum daily inmate capacity, and if the proposed jail pod addition was removed from the SPLOST V project list, the county would have to find a way “immediately” to build the pod.
Bruce Holmes, who amended the first proposed change, said the aquatic centers were about “quality of life.”
“We got a lot of calls,” Holmes said. “Senior citizens and younger citizens want aquatic centers.”
Holmes argued the aquatic centers would be the best way to get SPLOST to pass.
The first proposal was voted down with a 3-3 vote. Thomas, Holmes and Clemmons voted in favor, while Wood, Wilson and Gary Barham voted against.
The second proposal, made by Chairwoman June Wood, failed to come to a vote for lack of a second. This proposal would have moved the fleet replacement plan to the capital improvement list, and replaced with a single $11 million aquatic center.
That motion was not amended, in spite of Clemmons asking for a second aquatic center, which one commissioner quietly said wouldn’t work.
As a result, the two proposed aquatic centers, which were first mentioned at the county’s SPLOST meeting in late June, were not included in the project list.