Things to Know
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPLOST) provided by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG)
How did SPLOST come to be?
The SPLOST law was enacted in 1985 at the request of the ACCG. The SPLOST was conceived and enacted as a county tax for funding capital projects.
Who can enact SPLOST?
As a county tax, a SPLOST can only be initiated by the board of commissioners and voted in by citizens.
How will I be taxed?
SPLOST is a 1 percent tax on all sales and uses in Newton County. The SPLOST tax is not something paid for on your tax bill but at cash registers throughout the county.
How long does it last?
The SPLOST sales tax will be imposed for six years if the referendum passes.
How long are funds collected?
The SPLOST accrual period is typically 5 or 6 years during which the funds are accrued. Depending on the economy and urgency of need, some projects may be bonded in order to begin before all the money has accrued. The bond is then repaid with the SPLOST funds.
What can SPLOST pay for?
Infrastructure and capital outlay projects
What has SPLOST paid for?
Such projects in Newton County are the Cornish Creek Reservoir/Lake Varner, Newton County Judicial Building, renovation to the Historic Courthouse, the Newton County Jail, the Administration Building, Turner Lake Complex, various parks throughout the county, road improvements and more that can be found on links within this section.
Can the SPLOST ballot be designed to authorize voter approval on some, but not all, projects on the SPLOST ballot?
No, the law sets forth the specific language to be used in seeking approval of the voters in a SPLOST referendum. It does not authorize any alternative ballot questions or form that would allow for a “pick and choose” ballot.
How much detail is needed on the ballot in describing proposed SPLOST projects?
The SPLOST law requires that the purpose or purposes for which the SPLOST revenues will be used be specified on the ballot. The degree of specificity required is not addressed in the law. However, the Attorney General of Georgia has concluded that: “There is no necessity that the description of the purpose or purposes for the tax be in exacting detail. Rather, the description and the purposes must be only so specific as to place the electorate on fair notice of the projects to which the tax will be devoted.”
Can SPLOST revenues be used to build local schools?
No. A separate Education SPLOST for school construction is available to boards of education.
Can SPLOST funds be used to construct projects for local charities or other nonprofit organizations?
No. The gratuities clause of the Georgia Constitution bars local governments from using SPLOST revenues or any other public funds to fund the capital outlay projects for non-public entities. This restriction applies to for-profit organizations as well as not-for-profit organizations, including charitable organizations.
After the SPLOST referendum has passed, may a county use other available revenue to begin the construction on the SPLOST-approved projects and to reimburse itself once the SPLOST revenues start to come in?
Yes. Counties may issue debt or borrow form their general fund to get projects underway promptly.
Can SPLOST revenues be moved between voter-approved projects to accommodate greater costs in one or more of the projects?
Yes. Since project costs are estimates, each local government receiving SPLOST revenues may shift funds between their approved projects (as long as all projects are completed).
In case of a “shortfall” of SPLOST funds to pay for projects, what happens?
The approved projects could be scaled back, but not abandoned. A local government must make up any shortfall from their general fund or other funding sources.
Can a county or municipality change its mind and not fund one or more of the SPLOST projects despite voter approval in a referendum?
No. The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that the governing authority is obliged to use proceeds from the SPLOST for the projects approved in the SPLOST referendum.
Can projects be authorized and constructed according to different time frames?
Yes. Where a county and municipalities enter into an intergovernmental agreement, the agreement must specify a schedule for distributing the SPLOST proceeds and the priority or order in which the projects are to be funded or partially funded. Time frames for individual projects should reflect the priority.
If a municipality has completed its projects and has SPLOST revenue remaining, can it give this revenue to another municipality that needs additional revenues to complete its approve projects?
No. Any funds remaining after a municipality has completed all of its approved projects can become “excess proceeds”.
Can excess proceeds be used to pay authority debt?
No. Excess proceeds may not be used to reduce existing debt of an authority, whether it is a development authority, water authority, housing authority or any other type of local authority.
Can a county terminate its SPLOST early?
No. Only the state revenue commissioner can terminate a SPLOST and only in accordance with the time or revenue limites authorized by the SPLOST law.
Can SPLOST revenue be used to acquire unimproved land?
Can property purchased with SPLOST revenue later be converted to a different use?
There is nothing in the SPLOST law that prevents conversion to a different use.
Can capital outlay projects supporting enterprise services be funded through SPLOST?
Yes. The law allows counties and municipalities to use SPLOST revenues to fund capital outlay projects supporting enterprise operations, such as water or sewer system improvements.
Can capital projects serving more than one county or municipality or a regional authority be funded through SPLOST?
Yes. Several types of regional facilities may be financed through SPLOST, including development authorities, regional jails, regional correctional institutions and other detention facilities, regional solid waste handling facilities and regional recovered material processing facilities. Where a proper intergovernmental agreement is entered into, SPLSOT revenues may be used to finance a county’s portion of a project owned or operated by a regional authority.
Can SPLSOT funds be used to reduce property taxes?
Although counties cannot directly include a property tax rollback as an eligible expenditure on the referendum, counties can use SPLSOT funds to pay for capital outlay projects that would otherwise be funded through property tax revenues. Also, if excess proceeds remain after SPLOST projects have been completed and there is no county debt, the excess proceeds must go to the general fund of the county to reduce county property taxes.
Can SPLOST proceeds be used to pay off revenue bonds that are outstanding at the time of SPLSOT referendum?
No. While SPLOST proceeds can be used to retire existing general obligation debt, the proceeds cannot be used to pay off existing revenue bonds. However, counties may issue revenue bonds after the referendum is approved to provide funds to get projects initiated before all revenues are collected.
Can SPLOST be borrowed to pay for other county services or projects and paid back later form the general fund?
No. SPLOST funds my only be used or capital outlay projects approved by the voters in a SPLSOT referendum.
Who establishes the revenue estimate and the project costs specified in the resolution and on the ballot?
The county is responsible for estimating the SPLOST revenues expected to be collected over the life of the SPLSOT, as well as the costs of all projects to be financed. The county should also ensure that the sum of all projects costs, including those submitted by municipalities, equals the estimated revenues.