FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Most frequently asked questions and answers
SPLOST is an acronym for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It is a program through which counties can add one penny per dollar spent by consumers within its borders to help fund projects specifically allowed by state law. It is optional, meaning not mandatory. Each county has to propose a list of projects, and the county residents get to vote whether to agree to this one penny sales tax. It is temporary – collected for five to ten-year periods for the projects specified, then the county proposes a new list and asks its residents to vote yes or no to continue the penny sales tax.
Every project on the SPLOST 2020 list benefits Athens-Clarke County by either supporting economic prosperity, improving social well-being, or protecting the environment.
Many basic community needs, such as infrastructure and emergency services repair, cannot be covered by our current tax collections. Because of the negative impact on revenue collection from the Recession of 2008, there is not enough money to fund these basics that might otherwise be covered by annual collections. SPLOST gives us the chance to take public input while choosing a set of community restoration and development projects to make up the discrepancy without increasing property taxes.
There are many basic needs for infrastructure and repair of existing services that cannot be covered by the current tax collections. SPLOST gives us a chance to evaluate and choose a set of projects with public input that can contribute to quality of life in Athens-Clarke County without increasing property taxes.
Athens-Clarke County is still recovering from the negative impact on revenue collections of the Recession of 2008. There was no money to fund many of the basics that are normally covered from annual collections.
SPLOST 2020 is full of economically beneficial projects. The many parks on the list, Bear Hollow Zoo, and The Classic Center Arena, to name a few, all bring in outside visitors. This in turn means that Athens-Clarke County citizens benefit from all of the money that these tourists spend locally. Affordable housing is a proven economic development tool, while libraries and cultural amenities are significant factors that companies and families compare when considering whether to move to a new community. Additionally, the modernization of government facilities reduces operational costs, thereby saving money to be put back into services. Additionally, airport improvements help pave the way for a commercial carrier to serve Athens and increase travel convenience for citizens.
Affordable workforce housing is not subsidized low-income housing that is made available at below- market rates through the use of government subsidies.
According to the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Workforce Housing is defined as housing affordable to households earning between 60 and 120 percent of area median income (AMI). Workforce housing targets middle-income workers which includes professions such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, health care workers, retail clerks, and the like (Parlow, 2015). Households who need workforce housing do not qualify for subsidized housing programs.
It is increasingly difficult for middle-income workers to buy or rent housing in the areas in which they work. This is in part due to wages not keeping up with increasing costs of living but is also due to the limited supply of housing affordable to these workers. In Athens, most of the 3,000 or more rental units built in the last 10 years were developed and marketed to students while only about 10% were built as workforce or family targeted units.
The SPLOST project will develop workforce housing through a $44 million account to leverage financing from federal and state tax credit programs and private investors for the purpose of residential redevelopment.
In the Envision Athens Action Agenda, a result of extensive community input, the first success measure under Housing is to “prioritize affordable housing via SPLOST allocation at an adequate level in order to make a measurable impact ($4 million per year).” That is the amount that is in the SPLOST package.
The current courthouse is overcrowded and cannot provide adequate space for staff, jurors, and separation of victims from suspects. In a 2018 Space Allocation Study designed to determine the most efficient ways to reorganize governmental functions, moving judicial functions to a well-planned and safe facility was deemed one of the best ways to do this.
The building is a historic cornerstone for downtown Athens and needs to be utilized in a way that maintains its vitality. The preliminary plan is to move other Athens-Clarke County functions into the space, freeing other real estate in A-CC. A-CC offices being considered for relocation include those from Costa Building, Satula Avenue Government Center, Dougherty Street Government Building, and the Prince Avenue IT Building.
This project is included because fast and affordable broadband access is essential to education, economic development, and to healthcare. There are places in A-CC where broadband is poor or non-existent, unreliable, and extremely expensive.
Broadband may be handled like water, sewer, and solid waste services or it may be run by private hands. The most effective path to be of service to A-CC is still being decided.
Not only is improving the sustainability and environmentally friendly impacts throughout A-CC the right thing to do to ensure a healthy earth for future generations, in May, the Mayor and Commission committed to switch to entirely clean and renewable energy sources by the year 2035. A-CC is the fourth city in Georgia to make this commitment. In the long run, these projects will significantly decrease energy costs and save money.
Green spaces are necessary to protect the water quality of our area and are an essential component of an urban ecosystem. Athens-Clarke County has a goal of achieving 20% protected green space. The additional green space included in this will get us closer to that goal.
According to the World Health Organization, “Green urban areas facilitate physical activity and relaxation, and form a refuge from noise. Trees produce oxygen, and help filter out harmful air pollution, including airborne particulate matter. Water spots, from lakes to rivers and fountains, moderate temperatures. Urban parks and gardens play a critical role in cooling cities, and also provide safe routes for walking and cycling for transport purposes as well as sites for physical activity, social interaction and for recreation.”
Source: “Health and Sustainable Development :Urban Green Spaces,” World Health Organization, accessed 28 Aug 2019 https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/cities/health-risks/urban-green-space/en/.
Any improvements will be according to the Tallassee Forest Master Plan. This project will provide sustainable improvements that will provide public access such as restrooms, parking areas, and interpretive signage, but are not geared to make this a destination for huge groups that can damage the preserve. The goal is to make these treasures accessible for appreciation while keeping them protected.
The Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County has intergovernmental agreements with the Town of Bogart and the City of Winterville for their residents that are also within the boundaries of Athens-Clarke County. Using a formula calculating per capita amounts of the total package, that amount is provided to those independent entities that are not a part of unified Athens-Clarke County. As many Bogart and Winterville citizens work in A-CC or regularly spend money at local businesses, our relationship with our neighbors is symbiotic and beneficial for the well-being of A-CC.
The Mayor & Commission have the final authority and responsibility to determine what projects are most beneficial to the community. Because the project list was so long (88 projects and 44 alternates submitted) and far exceeded the original $278 million budget, the Mayor and Commission extended the time period from 10 years to 11 years to allow more money to be added. Many project budgets were also reduced so that more projects could be funded.