SPLOST: Understand the impact of your vote

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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With the upcoming special election only a week away, many voters might be asking the question, what is SPLOST?

SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It’s a temporary one percent sales tax collected on purchases within the county to help fund capital projects throughout Troup County.

The upcoming election will ask voters to approve SPLOST VI by referendum, which would continue the one-cent sales tax through 2031. Troup County voters have approved the previous five SPLOSTs.

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The county estimates that if SPLOST VI is approved it would raise approximately $80 million, about $10 million more than the previous SPLOST. The funds are then split between the county and all three cities based on population.

The county and the City of LaGrange would receive 45 percent each with smaller Hogansville and West Point receiving 5 percent each. Under the 45-45-5-5 split, LaGrange and Troup County would get an estimated $34.2 million each, while Hogansville and West Point would get $3.8 each.

In the past, SPLOST funds have been used to pay for the new county jail, the government center, Sweetland Amphitheatre, and The Thread, along with countless road, bridge, sewer and water improvements throughout the county.  

For the upcoming SPLOST vote, there isn’t really a signature project aside from the resurfacing of Kia Parkway and a countywide traffic camera system. The money for both projects would come off the top due to their countywide significance.

Countywide projects

Due to the economic importance of the Kia plant to all of Troup County, West Point has asked that Kia Parkway and several other roads around the manufacturing plant be repaired using countywide SPLOST funds. West Point City Manager Ed Moon said that the city cannot afford to repair the roads whose costs are estimated to exceed $7.8 million, nearly double the city’s SPLOST portion.

Sheriff James Woodruff and former LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar have also proposed a countywide traffic camera system.

LaGrange has had great success using its camera system since 1990, which Dekmar said has been used to track down countless criminals, including five individuals charged with murder who were tracked to Mississippi and brought back to LaGrange.

Dekmar said that the videos have also been used to clear individuals as well, saying cameras in LaGrange were used to prove that an arson suspect in Coweta County was innocent.

Any videos that are not involved in investigations are purged every 180 days for privacy concerns, Dekmar said when SPLOST was introduced in the fall. Logs are also kept on who accesses the videos.

Troup County projects

Troup County plans to use its SPLOST funds for roads and bridge repairs, infrastructure at the LaGrange-Callaway Airport, public safety, government facilities, equipment and 

vehicles, parks and recreation and community improvement.

LaGrange projects

LaGrange plans to use the biggest portion of its SPLOST funds, $10 million, to continue the expansion of the city’s multi-use trail, The Thread. 

The city plans to use the remaining funds to pay for capital outlay projects such as park improvements, gateway corridor enhancements, road and bridge improvements, regional stormwater management initiatives and public safety.

Hogansville projects

Hogansville plans to use the biggest allocation of its SPLOST funds to make much-needed water and sewer repairs. Hogansville has also committed to using $900,000 for parks and recreation and $450,000 on future large equipment needs such as backhoes and excavators.

Other Hogansville projects include improvements for sidewalks and equipment purchases.

West Point projects

West Point intends to use its $3.8 million to improve facilities, equipment, roads, sidewalks and public safety.

The biggest portion will go to public safety at $2 million in total, with $1 million used for improvements to fire and EMS, $500,000 for police and $500,000 to replace the city’s 911 system.

With the remaining funds, the city has allocated $1 million for public works, $500,000 for utilities and $300,000 for parks.

What SPLOST isn’t

The SPLOST does not pay for operational costs and cannot do so by law. SPLOST funds cannot be used to pay hourly wages and benefits for city employees or salaried staff. SPLOST also cannot be used for utilities or fuel for vehicles. It can only be used for capital expenditures, which include acquiring, improving or maintaining fixed assets such as land, buildings and equipment, or pay off debt for capital purchases.

The upcoming SPLOST vote also isn’t for the school system, which has its own separate E-SPLOST. Since 1997, Troup County voters have approved the separate E-SPLOST, which is another one-cent sales tax to build new schools, build athletic facilities and auditoriums, renovate and maintain schools, and purchase equipment.

Visitors pay a large chunk of SPLOST

While residents in Troup County pay an extra penny on each local dollar purchase, they aren’t the only ones doing so. Visitors, travelers and tourists also pay into SPLOST funds, not to mention the thousands of people who come into Troup to work and return elsewhere to live.

Almost all of Georgia’s 159 counties collect a SPLOST. Local leaders say if the voters were to not approve the SPLOST it would put Troup County at a disadvantage. Other counties would still receive funds from local residents when they travel but Troup wouldn’t get any back when others visit here.

SPLOST subsidizes the need for other taxes. Many of the capital projects that SPLOST pays for are much-needed maintenance and upkeep of municipal facilities, roads and bridges.