Sales tax dollars fund road improvements, equipment

Voters here will decide whether to extend the county’s special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in the general election Nov. 5.

“We have lots of projects we want to undertake with a renewal of the sales tax,” said County Manager Jason Rubenbauer.

Rubenbauer pointed out the county has been able to undertake many projects with the current sales tax approved in 2014. The current tax will expire March 31, 2020 if it is not extended by the voters next month.

The current tax was expected to raise $11 million by the time it ended in March 2020, but the collections have already exceeded that amount. Total collections are now at $10,450,996.52 through September.

Pierce County received $6,809,299.08, Blackshear received $2,717,545.76, Patterson received $641,229.11 and Offerman received $282,922.57.

Rubenbauer stresses that without the sales tax, local governments would not have been able to make purchases and improvements as they have in recent years.

“If we had done that using our general fund budget fort he county, we would have had to increase the millage rate by up to three mills,” he points out.

“I think you will find that Pierce County has been able to accomplish a large amount of projects through our 2014 SPLOST and will continue to be vigilant in ensuring that the sales tax dollars received will be used in a highly efficient manner,” he said.

Some of the items paid for or purchased by the existing SPLOST that began in 2014 include a number of road projects, capital improvements and debt service.

Some of the road projects that were entirely or partially funded with the SPLOST include Little Hurricane Creek and Tyre Bridge replacements, paving of Ridge Road, Money Hole Road, Satilla Road, Margaret Drive, Central Road, Bay Road, South Road, Sweetwater Circle, Ricky Lane, Satilla Trail, Buck Trail, Pine Lake Drive, Satilla Circle and Apple Road. Road realignment, resurfacing, widening and maintenance projects include Midway Church Road, Trudie Road, Walkerville Road and County Farm Road. A number of roads were also re-striped. Sales tax funds also bought 10 sheriff’s patrol vehicles, two ambulances, two motor graders, a utility truck, a rescue truck, a water tanker, an EMA truck, mowers, a Gator and a drag rake and a goose neck trailer.

Facility repairs and capital outlay projects include improvements to the EMS building, annex and courthouse,  purchasing property on Mimosa Street for the jail expansion, remodeling at the Ware Street and Tiger Field recreation areas, culvert pipes, EMS equipment, computer equipment and upgrades, turnout gear for firefighters, televisions and a laptop for EMA and roof repairs at the 911 building and Ware Street recreation office. The funds were also used to  retire debt at the NFC/library/Pierce County Gym.

County commissioners approved calling for a new referendum earlier this year.

If approved, the new SPLOST is expected to generate $14 million over the next five years.

Pierce County will use their share of the 2020 SPLOST to construct an addition to the Pierce County Jail and make improvements at the Ware Street Recreation Department. Additional monies will be used for upgrading fire departments and firefighting equipment, road paving and improvements and to pay for sheriff’s vehicles and road equipment. Some funds will be used to pay revenue bonds on the administrative building and library.

Blackshear has designated their funds for water and sewer infrastructure, public safety, road maintenance and construction, recreational facilities and downtown development.

Patterson has also earmarked their SPLOST dollars for road construction and maintenance, downtown developmental and recreational facilities, public safety, Eagle Station projects and water and sewer infrastructure.

Offerman’s SPLOST funds will support road maintenance and construction and cultural recreational facilities.

Polls for the SPLOST election will open on Election Day, November 5, at the Pierce County Gym at the Southeast Georgia Regional Agricultural Center on College Avenue in Blackshear or Eagle Station on Williams Street in Patterson. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

There will be no voting on Monday, Nov. 4.

Advanced voting will also be held at 312 Nichols Street, Blackshear, through Friday, November 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.