SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s a penny that is added with millions of others over and over to make a whole lot of money for local governments. It’s called the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and it will be one of the questions on the ballot next month.
SPLOST has been collected since 1985 and has been approved by voters every six years. Now it’s time for SPLOST 7 and again, voters will decide if the tax will continue to be collected after 2020.
“You’re paying one penny on every dollar that you spend and that one penny is being used to fund capital projects that benefit our community,” said Daphanie Williams Special Project Coordinator for the Savannah City Manager’s Office.
From park and drainage improvements to even bigger projects, Williams says most municipal governments are big fans of the little tax.
“Actually, since 1985 SPLOST has provided funding for over 300 projects You may be familiar with the new Cultural Arts Center located in the downtown area and most recently we had a groundbreaking event for our latest project to date and that’s our new arena project,” she said.
Williams says most local governments have improved communities with SPLOST because the tax provides them with a funding source for projects they probably wouldn’t be able to build or fund otherwise.
“So we’re very fortunate in order to have SPLOST as a means of funding mechanism in order to support these projects that we could or may not otherwise be able to do so out of our normal budget,” she said.
However, every six years taxpayers do have their say. On the ballot this year in Chatham County, you will see a “Yes or No” question on whether to approve another round of the penny tax. If approved, the city of Savannah is already earmarking projects for SPLOST 7. Williams says they have identified about 23 new projects worth up to $155 million, which includes new and large drainage projects in several westside canals as well as a plan that would require up to $10 million to buy and restore blighted properties.
She does recognize some people may not like the tax but says about “40 percent of SPLOST dollars come from people who do not even live in the city of Savannah.”
Chatham County actually collects the tax and then disburses it to local governments. In addition to the city of Savannah, others throughout the county have identified projects that over the years have been built with SPLOST dollars.
For example, Tybee city officials recently provided information SPLOST projects totally up to $4 million that they hope to be funded by the new round of the penny tax. Those projects include public safety facilities and equipment, road and drainage improvements, water and sewer infrastructure and new recreation facilities.