Current law requires all SPLOSTs to be 1 percent, or 1 cent on the dollar, but Carson’s bill would allow for a fraction of that amount to be taxed.
“That way you can do it at a fourth of a penny, half penny, three-fourths in various denominations,” he said.
House Bill 153, which was requested by both county Chairman Tim Lee and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, is co-signed by state Reps. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and David Wilkerson (D-Austell).
Lee said as the county becomes built out, the need for the hundreds of millions of dollars the 1 percent sales tax collects grows smaller.
Lee said he could accomplish the goal of collecting fewer dollars by shrinking the number of years a SPLOST is collected. But conducting a SPLOST election every two years would not be “effective and efficient,” he said.
GMA spokeswoman Amy Henderson said her group’s argument is that the SPLOST law works fine as it is and that voters overall like SPLOSTs.
“Cobb County apparently has a situation where it collects a lot of money from SPLOST very quickly,” Henderson said. “This is an issue many counties and cities would love to have: adequate funding for infrastructure and quality of life projects.”
Cobb’s current four-year SPLOST is smaller than its previous six-year SPLOST, for instance.
“So Cobb has reduced the number of years it collects the tax, meaning it has to go back to the voters more frequently for approval of subsequent SPLOSTs,” she said.
A fractional SPLOST would allow the county to collect the same amount over a longer period and thus not have to ask voters as frequently to approve the list of projects, she said.
“I understand the most recent votes on the issue have been very close,” she said.
Henderson is correct. The last two county SPLOSTs have barely passed.
The 2005 SPLOST passed 19,947 to 19,833, while the 2011 passed 21,552 to 21,462, according to Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb Board of Elections.
Henderson said other counties and cities don’t have “the easy funding problem” that Cobb has.
“Many of them are behind where they’d hoped to be in SPLOST collections so some of the infrastructure improvements aren’t going to be funded,” she said. “However, if a fractional SPLOST is an option, it’s possible that it will even further reduce the amount of funds available for capital improvement projects.”
Carson said GMA’s objection is that county governments are able to set whatever the sales tax rate is so that it only pays for county projects, leaving nothing left for cities. Carson said he addressed this concern by requiring counties to get the consent of all cities involved through an intergovernmental agreement prior to holding a fractional SPLOST referendum.
“And if they don’t get that, we go back to what we have now, which is 1 cent or nothing,” he said.
The bill is now in the House Ways & Means Committee.
Clint Mueller, legislative director with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said his organization is not taking a position on the bill because his membership is divided.