County To Use Population Formula To Distribute SPLOST

Habersham - In a 3-2 vote, the county approved a population-based formula as the way to distribute SPLOST funds to the seven municipalities.

The vote ultimately came down to two options. Option 1 is a population distribution formula. Option 2 was a combination of population and a composite share, also known as a hybrid plan.

“We looked at six different factors to come up with a composite,” said County Manager Phil Sutton. 

Commissioner Dustin Mealor stated the population formula would improve equal funding for every citizen rather than assigning a dollar of around $978 per citizen.

“I don’t think it’s about what our citizens are worth when we consider that all of the county residents, whether they live within the city limits or in the unincorporated areas, have to go into those commercial city center that we just talked about either to go to work or to purchase their good,” Commissioner Crawford said. “I understand the argument, I see the argument, I just want to be careful of language assigning a dollar value per citizen when it’s a little more complicated than that.”

The population plan would give the county would receive around $2 million more while Cornelia, Clarkesville, and Tallulah Falls would receive a hefty amount less than under the hybrid plan. 

“The county is the one losing money on it and the county has stuff we provide everyone, whether they’re in the county or not, with; our recreational facilities, our jail,” said Commissioner Stamey. “I don’t know. You can look at it several different ways but the one fair way, I do believe, is by population.”

Hall noted that during a recent meeting discussing SPLOST, many of the municipalities were in favor of the hybrid option.  

Option 1 does have to be approved by voters. “If they don’t, then we can’t reach an IGA and we either do a five-year deal on our own or we could revisit it,” Hall said. At least 50% of the residents in the municipalities must support the option and sign an intergovernmental agreement (IGA).

“If we use the prior SPLOST, nobody’s share would go down,” Cornelia Mayor John Barrow said. “What we were hopeful (for), was that we would be able to compromise.” 

Commission Chairman Stacy Hall went on to say that, “My goal when we first set out on this task was that I wanted everybody to win in this situation, which I knew would take some compromise.” 

Commissioner Natalie Crawford made a motion to approve Option 2, the hybrid option, but the vote failed in a 2-3 vote. Option 2 was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Tim Stamey, Dustin Mealor, and Jimmy Tench in favor of the option.