West Point Rotary hears about upcoming SPLOST vote

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 3, 2023

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WEST POINT — On Tuesday, March 21st, Troup County voters will decide whether to extend the county’s current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, commonly known as SPLOST. The voters can approve this one percent sales tax in six year increments. SPLOST V is currently generating revenue for the county. It expires in 2024. If approved by the voters on March 21st, SPLOST VI will run from 2025 to 2031. Early voting starts on February 27th and runs through March 17th.

SPLOST is an optional one percent county sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects proposed by the county government or a county’s municipality.

During the noon hour on Thursday, two members of a committee seeking to extend the current sales tax encouraged West Point Rotary Club members to help get the word out about the upcoming vote. Charlie Metcalf and Joe Kirkland are urging Troup County residents to continue this important funding source for infrastructure projects and community parks and recreation facilities.

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Metcalf is the pastor of Clearview Chapel in a fast growing part of LaGrange. He’s also an active cyclist and a booster of the Thread, a popular walking and biking path in LaGrange. Kirkland is the committee co-chair and associate director of Duracell in LaGrange.

Troup County voters have approved SPLOST five times. SPLOST I provided funding for a new county jail and SPLOST II enabled a new Government Center in downtown LaGrange. The SPLOST program has provided major upgrades in recreation facilities in LaGrange, West Point, and Hogansville. It has also provided funding for purchasing police cars, fire trucks, communications equipment, and other community needs.

When he talks about the importance of SPLOST, Metcalf likes to show people a picture of a new fire truck sitting next to one that was new in 1976. “I like to ask them, ‘If your house is on fire, which one of these trucks do you want coming to help you?” he said.

SPLOST V is generating an estimated $80 million a year. As much as fifty percent of this money comes from outside the county. According to an Intergovernmental Agreement between Troup County and the cities of LaGrange, West Point and Hogansville, shares of this revenue are based on population. The county, which has a little over 70,000 people, gets 45 percent. The City of LaGrange, with just over 31,000 people, gets 45 percent. West Point, with 3,700 people, and Hogansville, with 3,300, each get five percent.

Five percent breaks down to $3.8 million. According to the state’s 1985 SPLOST law, each entity will get a check from the state for the amount they are entitled to.

Kirkland told members of the club that he and his three young children are active in community recreation programs. They each play a different sport, but each one participates in an outstanding facility paid for with SPLOST funds.

Metcalf likes to ride his bike near West Point Lake. 

“You can feel the road when you are riding,” he said. “I know when I go out of the county because the roads aren’t as smooth.”

A club member told Metcalf that some West Point residents don’t believe the city is getting its fair share. With Kia and its suppliers, Point University and a busy downtown area, West Point almost certainly has more than 3,700 people in the town at any point in time and those people are spending money that goes to sales tax.

Metcalf said there’s no known way of knowing where sales tax money is coming from. 

“Is it coming from Walmart, Great Wolf Lodge of a corner gas station?” he asked. “There’s no way of knowing.”

Metcalf is a native of West Palm Beach, Florida and likes that he’s now in an area with much less activity. He said he’s for community growth within certain limits. “I wouldn’t want to be like Newnan,” he said. “There’s too much traffic in a place like that.”

West Point City Administrator Ed Moon said that West Point needs for SPLOST funding to continue.

The city has responsibility for maintaining Kia Parkway and Kia Boulevard. They need constant maintenance. Some resurfacing is needed on both major roads and the bridge over Long Cane Creek on Gabbettville Road.

SPLOST gives land owners a break on their property taxes. Compared to property taxes, SPLOST funding has proven to be a more popular way of coming up with money needed for capital projects. Almost all of Georgia’s 159 counties have some kind of SPLOST program generating funds for local projects. That the voters must approve the SPLOST through a referendum reinforces democratic principles and is popular with elected officials – they don’t have to raise property taxes to get something done.

Georgia’s SPLOST law was approved in 1985 and substantially rewritten in 2004.

In addition to the county jail and Government Center, past SPLOSTs have generated funds to help build the Sweetland Amphitheater in LaGrange along with road, bridge and water improvements throughout the county.

“Ongoing projects that are be done with SPLOST funding are something that can attract new residents to the county and persuade those who are already here to stay,” Metcalf said.