By Greg Gullberg
August 8, 2013
Valdosta, GA - Lowndes County voters will soon decide on a potential tax hike. But first officials need to agree on how they'll use the money. That may be done in the next few days.
Lowndes County and all five cities within it are voting on their proposals for a penny tax called 'SPLOST', or Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. By Tuesday night, each of them will have voted on the agreement of how to divide the money. If they all approve it, the next step for SPLOST is the November ballot.
Valdosta city leaders voted unanimous Thursday night to approve their proposal. Valdosta has by far the biggest need for the tax.
Heavy rain flooded the Waste Water Treatment Plant in February, backing up the pipes and causing sewage to pour into people's yards in the Meadow Brook Subdivision. Now fixing and moving the Treatment Plant as well as changing the way sewage is transported through the pipes are top priorities for Valdosta city leaders. But the two projects combined will cost the city more than $50 million.
"We think we have a very back to basics menu. This is an infrastructure based menu of projects. It's need based. Not want based," said Larry Hanson, Valdosta City Manager.
But Lowndes voters defeated SPLOST last year. Now those funds will run out in December. And that could cost voters in other ways.
"The only contingency plan we have is we would have to raise property taxes considerably. Possibly even raise water and sewer rates considerably," said Valdosta Mayor John Gayle.
SPLOST would generate $150 million over the next six years. $80 million would go to the city of Valdosta. $63 million would go to the county. The rest would go to the other four cities.