Frequently Asked Questions
Please click on the question to reveal the answer.
(Project-specific technical data provided by Fayette County and municipality staff.)
What is a SPLOST?
SPLOST is an acronym standing for “special local option sales tax” that the state of Georgia allows county governments to use to fund capital outlay projects that are otherwise funded through property tax revenues. Proceeds can be used for hiring professional services and contractors to design and build infrastructure projects or for special areas of need like economic development. They can also be used to pay salary of staff working directly on SPLOST projects
In general, SPLOST proceeds may not be used for operating expenses or maintenance, although maintenance and repair of roads, streets, and bridges are eligible projects per the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A) §48-8-111(a)(1)(L).
What is on the March 21, 2017 SPLOST?
The largest category on the SPLOST list across all jurisdictions is transportation, totaling nearly $60 million, and includes road construction, intersection and bridge improvements, cart path construction and improvements. If passed, the SPLOST funds can be used to leverage federal and state dollars. Although it adds complexity and time, participating in the Federal-aid program can leverage one local dollar which can bring up to four federal dollars to Fayette County. Fayette County is currently the only county in the metro district that does not have SPLOST funds available for state and federal matches.
The single largest project type is the County’s Stormwater Infrastructure Improvement Program totaling $23,741,641. This encompasses repair and replacement of deteriorated drainage systems under and adjacent to roadways. The project list includes 11 stormwater systems that failed during the 2015 Christmas flooding events. These 11 projects were on the failed 2013 SPLOST including the Christmas Eve 2015 pipe failure.
Fayette County and the municipalities collaborated to provide an interactive map showing the nearly 800 projects included in the SPLOST. Link to project lists HERE. The complete 2017 Fayette County SPLOST project manual can be found HERE and includes a box in the upper left-hand corner with links to each municipality.
Sales tax in Fayette is six percent; what is it used for?
The state has a four-percent sales tax on all goods except groceries and some services.
In addition to the State’s four percent, Fayette County currently has two (2) one-cent sales taxes. The first penny is an education SPLOST, referred to as ESPLOST that was put in place in 2012 and will expire in 2018.
The second penny is called a LOST (different than a SPLOST) and is a sales tax that local governments can use for operations. The municipalities and the County are required to establish a memorandum of understanding on how to share the LOST revenues and it does not expire unless the local governments and the county decide to change their memorandum of understanding.
How much does a penny collect in Fayette County?
The County projects that the one-percent sales tax in Fayette County will generate approximately $23,502,359/year assuming a 1.65 percent growth rate and averaged over the next six years. For FY2016, the total collected on one penny was $22,185,336.
What is the portion going to the county and to each municipality?
Fayette County – 46%
Peachtree City – 32%
Fayetteville – 15%
Tyrone – 6%
Brooks – less than 1%
Woolsey – included with the county’s portion.
What are the sales tax rates in other counties?
Coweta, Fulton, Henry and Spalding counties – 7%
Clayton County and City of Atlanta – 8%
Currently, five counties in Georgia do not have a SPLOST. Beginning April 1, the only Georgia counties without a SPLOST will be Fayette County, Liberty County and Pulaski County
What percent of sales tax is paid for by people that shop in Fayette but don’t live in Fayette County?
The exact percentage is unknown since there is no retail leakage study available for Fayette County. The percentage typically used by local governments to assess outside sales tax in a jurisdiction is 20 to 30 percent. Fayette County does have two shopping centers that are classified as “regional shopping centers” which by definition attract from a radius that includes counties other than Fayette.
Won’t a higher sales tax discourage shopping in Fayette?
Unlikely. There is little incentive to drive to another county to save one dollar on every one hundred dollars spent. The savings would barely pay for a half gallon of gas.
What is the status of the 2004 SPLOST projects?
The SPLOST approved in November 2004 focused on roads. Fayette County listed 19 specific projects on the ballot and the status of those projects is as follows:
12 projects completed
3 projects in-progress and scheduled for completion
4 projects were not completed after studies and evaluations resulted in recommendations for no further action.
Some of the highlights regarding the project list include:
- 60+ miles of county roads resurfaced
- New traffic signals at Bernhard, Ebenezer and Harp and two on Corinth
- Turn lanes at several intersections where added or realigned
The SPLOST also had a provision that allowed funding to go to eligible projects listed on the 2003 Comprehensive Transportation Plan, but those were not specifically listed on the ballot. Those projects on the Plan included a mix of bridge, intersection, roadway and trail projects throughout the County including the municipalities. The 2004 SPLOST fund provided the following
- 12 projects completed
- 6 projects in-progress and scheduled for completion
- 3 were not completed after studies and evaluations resulted in recommendations for no further action.
Projects completed or underway from the 2003 Comprehensive Transportation Plan with 2004 SPLOST funds include:
- Major bridges at Westbridge, Kenwood and McIntosh Roads were replaced
- Phase 1 of Veterans Parkway, including 1.6 miles of new road construction and installation of a new traffic signal on SR 54 was completed
- Phase 2 of Veterans Parkway is expected to be completed in 2017 and includes 4.5 miles of new roadway, a roundabout and a large bridge over Whitewater Creek
- Hilo Road with SR 92 was realigned and a new traffic signal installed
- Hood Avenue and SR 92 in Fayetteville was realigned and included a new traffic signal, added turn lanes and two roundabouts
- East Fayetteville Bypass, which is 100-percent locally funded and is currently in design and permitting
- Jimmy Mayfield Boulevard widened from two to four lanes
- Multiuse paths installed along portions of Beauregard Blvd and Redwine Road
Sufficient money is available from the 2004 SPLOST to complete all the active projects, noted above, as well as some other eligible projects from the 2003 Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
Shouldn’t my property tax cover these projects?
Local government provides many services including safety to its citizens, infrastructure expansion and infrastructure maintenance. Local governments have three options to raise revenue: property tax, fees and sales tax. All three options have pros and cons.
Property tax revenue is used for general operations and is often considered the most stable. However, the Great Recession upended this theory across the country and Fayette County was no different. Property tax revenue collections for Fayette County (which includes the school system and municipalities) fell to an all-time low in 2013 collecting nearly $33.8 million less than what was collected in 2009 – a 22-percent reduction. Property tax revenues have increased to $126,129, 671 for 2016.
Property tax revenue totals (2009-2016)
2016 – $135,610,255
2015 – $132,082,715
2014 – $123,586,031
2013 – $119,972,477
2012 – $121,679,932
2011 – $134,969,753
2010 – $138,808,996
2009 – $157,223,433
Click HERE for Fayette County Annual Financial Reports
As a consequence, normal maintenance and repair operations by both the County and municipalities were put on hold for multiple years. Also, the Board of Commissioners has not raised the tax rate since 2007 although required county and municipal services have had to keep pace with demand. Georgia law does have caps in place to restrict large property tax rate increases as well as assessment increases.
Fees are used to help pay for some of costs affiliated with certain services, such as building permits or business licenses. Fees collected for drinking water can only be used on water system projects. While fees included in General Fund help keep property taxes in check, they are not intended to generate revenue beyond the costs of the services to which connect.
In Georgia, sales tax revenues collected as a special local option sales tax (SPLOST) are often used for large-scale construction projects. Sales tax collections rise and fall with the health of the economy so that in the event of an economic downturn, construction may be delayed without affecting basic local government operations. While sales tax is sometimes considered to be a regressive tax, meaning that lower-income families pay a higher percentage of sales tax in relation to their income, the state of Georgia has worked to mitigate this issue by eliminating state sales tax on groceries. All local sales tax including SPLOST remain in place on groceries.
What will happen to these projects if the SPLOST doesn’t pass on March 21, 2017?
Many of the projects on the SPLOST list are safety and infrastructure needs and will be funded in one way or another. Elected officials will have to weigh different options and determine what is best for their jurisdiction.
- Projects such as the public safety radio system and buying a fire-pumper truck will take longer to fund through the five-year capital improvement process and will be at the expense of other needed projects.
- The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority revenue bonds can be used for water and sewer improvements. The consequence of using bonds is water and sewer rates usually increase to cover finance cost and the jurisdiction becomes encumbered with long-term debt.
- Infrastructure projects such as stormwater pipe replacements under roadways may move forward at a much slower rate. For the County, stormwater utility fees would likely increase significantly. More emergency replacements are expected to occur as a result of delayed maintenance. For example, the heavy rains at Christmas 2015 resulted in road closures at Spear, McBride and Canterbury roads. Fayette County reallocated an additional $3 million dollars for emergency culvert repairs.
- Many of the transportation projects will not be funded (i.e., won’t get done) and Fayette County will have little money available for local match opportunities on federal aid projects.
- Replacing Fire Station No. 4 will be delayed until new funding sources are identified.
If the SPLOST doesn't pass this time, can it be voted on again?
If the SPLOST fails on March 21, it can be scheduled for a vote again no earlier than April 2018. Since the municipalities and County have a goal to thoroughly vet the projects on the SPLOST list, the time to prepare for another referendum is likely more than 12 months, so this would potentially push the vote to November 2018.
Shouldn’t my property taxes cover stormwater projects?
Metal stormwater structures installed throughout the unincorporated county during the 1970s and ‘80s are now decades old and failing. No funds were consistently set aside to cover the costs to replace deteriorating infrastructure. The current Board of Commissioners has taken ownership of the problem and is working to bring the system up-to-date. The county has been performing culvert repair and replacement under local roads on an emergency-only basis, pulling funding from other budget line items when available.
Replacement and maintenance costs for stormwater structures rise every year and new federal installation requirements further increase construction costs. Old corrugated metal pipes are being replaced with concrete pipes that meet the new standards and have a lifespan of 50 years or more.
Isn’t the storm water fees currently paid supposed to be used to make needed repairs to the storm water infrastructure?
The stormwater fee is a user-based fee that funds the Stormwater Utility. The existing user fee generates approximately $500,000 each year. The proposed SPLOST stormwater project identified 238 projects in needs to be addressed in the next five to six years, with some needing immediate attention. The cost for the 238 projects is estimated to be $23.7 million, about $20 million more than the stormwater fee will generate in six years.
Going forward, Fayette County Board of Commissioners will need to decide how to fund infrastructure maintenance
What is the priority of stormwater project installations?
Projects of similar nature/scope/cost are organized by Categories. The top priority are Category I projects where construction needs to start immediately to prevent the possibility of loss of human life and/or property. The second priority is Category II, Tier 1 projects. Their repair need is “immediate” due to significant deterioration impairing its ability to correctly function. These projects will be implemented within two years. Category II Tier 2 and Category III projects will begin within the next six years.
Does the county have a Stormwater Master Plan? How can you propose projects without knowing the upstream and downstream impacts of the proposed replacements?
Fayette County’s Stormwater Master Plan is a dynamic plan that is in continuous development. Although the document is not complete, its core principles are used to evaluate the projects presented in the Stormwater SPLOST package. Preliminary designs proposed incorporate recently completed future-flood condition flood models to evaluate impacts upstream and downstream of proposed stormwater pipe (sometimes referred to as culverts) replacements. Also included in this evaluation are the county’s street design standards and specifications; county and state safe dams’ rules; and sound engineering practices.
It is important to note that although the Project List is based on preliminary field work and analysis. Fayette County will perform the traditional environmental, hydrologic and hydraulic analyses appropriate for culvert repairs, replacements and upgrades to prohibit negative impacts to upstream and downstream properties. These detailed design costs are incorporated into the total planning estimate in the 2017 Stormwater Infrastructure SPLOST list.
Category I and II projects’ design provides adequate passage of stormwater from large rain events (a 100-year storm for major roads and a 25-year storm event for local roads) and provides energy dissipation to alleviate downstream erosion. Where more than 100 acres drain to the stormwater pipe, floodplain modeling will be utilized to assess watershed impacts. For drainage basins less than 100 acres, standard hydrolic and hydraulic analyses will be used to quanitfy watershed impacts.
Why is the county proposing to replace a number of stormwater pipes that seem to be functioning correctly?
The condition of pipes identified in the project list varies significantly. A project was typically included on the list if it met one or more of the following criteria:
- The pipe is in poor condition and requires replacement in the near future to avoid damage to county infrastructure;
- The pipe is undersized and contributes to localized flooding issues;
- The pipe is too short and presents a safety issue to vehicles in terms of a steep drop-off;
- The pipe is metal (i.e., CMP), under a collector or arterial and on a stream and shows signs of corrosion; and/or,
- The pipe is in “fair” condition, but structural deterioration was documented during inspection.
Is consideration given to other options for stormwater pipe stabilization or reconditioning?
Yes. Over the past few years, county staff has compared costs of (and implemented a pilot study) alternatives to pipe replacement including: slip-line products, alternative materials to RCP, and concrete-spinning. Concrete spinning for smaller diameter pipes is cost-effective when replacement costs are higher than normal, such as pipe buried deep under a road with high traffic volumes.
Slip lining a pipe with steel casing can be just as expensive as replacing the same pipe with concrete. An advantage of slip lining is that the work can be performed without closing.
Although our experience to-date shows replacement with reinforced concrete pipe under roadways often offers the best combination of longevity, cost, low risk and water quality enhancement, the project list does allow for the consideration of other options to repair, enhance or replace the drainage system. As noted previously, each project’s cost estimates include monies necessary to assess the most cost-effective option that meets the county’s design standards.
Why does the list not include specific designs for each project?
It is not practical to complete design work for each project on the list, however some amount of analysis was performed on the Category I and II projects to allow for cost estimates for each project to be developed. The county hired a third-party engineering firm specializing in stormwater construction design to provide accurate estimates based on their own data analysis. Costs for full design and permitting are included in the estimate.
On some projects listed the county is proposing to work outside the county’s right of way on private property. Why? Does the county recognize their legal responsibility to assume future maintenance after performing work on private property?
Work outside the right-of- way is typically restricted to situations in which it is needed in order to provide an appropriate “fix” to the problem. For example, if a pipe is determined to be undersized, the proposed replacement extends downstream until the pipe daylights. Appropriate easements and/or right of way will be acquired prior to this work being accomplished.
Why is the county proposing to perform work on dams?
There are three dams included in the project list. Each of them is under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Safe Dams Program and is an integral part of a County road. The work is proposed to protect a road and/or reduce County liability.
Emerald Lake Dam is within county right-of- way and the county accepted ownership and maintenance responsibility for this structure in 1998. Although currently classified as a Category II dam, the County is bringing the dam into compliance with the state’s Safe Dams Program’ Category I standards to meet expected reclassification by the state. Work is needed to address flow capacity and structural integrity issues.
Kozisek Dam is a Category I structure with some of its components dependent upon or integral with Neely Road. Fayette County is in on-going negotiations with the property owner and the Safe Dams Program to absolve Fayette County of all ownership and maintenance responsibility of the structure. The cost estimate in the Project List reflects the county’s pro-rated amount associated with dam removal and road reconstruction. Regardless of the presence of a dam, Fayette County is responsible to safely pass the flows associated with the perennial stream under the road, and the cost to do so is reflected in the estimate.
Longview Dam (AKA Margaret Phillips Lake Dam) is also a Category I structure within the right-of- way of Longview Road. The cost estimate to bring this structure into compliance is still under development.
Has the county changed the storm water specifications to include concrete pipes in all future public and private developments?
Yes, County regulations state “Only reinforced concrete shall be used for storm drain structures under the roadway, publicly owned right-of-way and in applications to create buildable lots. The pipe must be designed and installed to meet the requirements in the latest edition of the concrete pipe design manual.”
The website link is HERE.
In many of the photos, it appears that pipe deterioration is due to poor backfill, not enough slope in the pipe, and silt or debris washing into the pipes and not being cleaned. What is the county doing to alleviate (eliminate?) this problem?
The Stormwater Management Ordinance revised in 2010, requires a third-party pipe standardized installation inspection report be submitted for all stormwater pipes placed in the ground prior to the County signing a final plat. The County can request additional installation information in the pipe installation report. Proper installation will help prevent pipe deterioration.
Why are we doing Detailed Planning Studies?
Detailed Planning Studies have three primary purposes: define the project; assist with project prioritization; and satisfy federal requirements. On large corridor projects, considerable data collection and engineering analysis is required to make accurate project recommendations. A Detailed Planning Study will collect the minimum data to allow for these analyses and provide results and recommendations for the Board of Commissioners to prioritize and advance the highest-rated projects. Having this information is prudent for local officials making decisions on projects with cost estimates in the tens-of- millions range and is required by state and regional planning agencies if the project is to be competitive in seeking Federal-aid.
How was the Fayette County transportation list developed?
The list was developed through several stages. First, a broad list of projects was developed by County staff using existing plans/studies, crash data from the Sheriff’s Office, and input received from citizens via meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. A draft list was then reviewed, and ultimately approved, by the Fayette County Transportation Committee. Last, the list was reviewed and approved by the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. Opportunities for public comment were provided at each stage of the process.