ELOST, SPLOST revenues dropping
By Kathryn Purcell
No, it's not the original saying. At this point, however, an adaption seems most appropriate - "As the economy goes, so goes sales tax."
Local sales tax collections in Morgan County, specifically ELOST (Education Local Option Sales Tax), seem to be in decline.
The current ELOST, scheduled for five years, is set to raise more than $21.2 million for projects within the Morgan County School System. These projects include a gymnasium at Morgan County High School, to cost more than $5.2 million; a Central Office building, to cost $1.3 million; and a gymnasium at Morgan County Elementary School, to cost $700,000. This ELOST also includes the building of a new school, set to cost $9 million.
As of the last Board of Education meeting, January 2008 ELOST collections that arrived in April (checks are always two months behind), totaled $230,774.54. Compared to collections of $284,927 in January 2007 and an average collection of $308,573.83 per month in 2007, the outlook isn't good.
"The check we got two or three weeks ago was off $100,000 based on the average of previous checks," Morgan County Schools Director of Operations Bob Monk said. "February and March may be off even more."
If the worst was to happen, however, and the school system not collect the more than $21.2 million needed, Morgan County Superintendent Stan DeJarnett feels that some of the projects could be delayed until they could be paid for.
"If we don't collect it, we don't collect it," DeJarnett said. "We may have to shift some projects into the next ELOST."
Meanwhile, at the county level, the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) currently in effect is slated to collect $26 million over six years to pay for capital projects including a new Public Safety Facility/Detention Center, the cost of which is $10.5 million, and new County Administrative Building, to cost $1 million, among other items.
Collections began coming in to the county in April of last year and total more than $3.5 million so far, the average collection amount being more than $317,000 per month.
Given that the previous SPLOST saw a 44 percent increase in revenue over its five-year span, Morgan County Manager Michael Lamar feels that the county worked enough of a buffer into the SPLOST so that some decline in sales tax collections could be negated.
"I'm not worried," Lamar said. "We assumed a 20 to 30 percent increase over six years. Even if things track lower than 2002 to 2007, we'll hopefully still be in the position to raise the $26 million."
For a detailed breakdown of Morgan County's SPLOST and ELOST, see Page 1D.