School system seeing drop in SPLOST collections
by Matthew Strother News editor
The school system’s special-purpose, local-option sales tax collections are coming in low, and officials may need to temper expectations for what projects the tax revenues will cover in the future.
SPLOST collections came in about $120,000 below expected for July at $838,111, also a $122,000 drop from the same month last year.
“I don’t have a good answer tonight on why that’s so low,” School system CFO Byron Jones said at Monday’s Board of Education caucus meeting. “We will find out if that’s a statewide issue. We are normally hearing that revenues are up for the state.”
Some surrounding counties have seen a similar drop, Jones said. One reason is likely the difference in how the state is collecting new vehicle title fees. Since a change in state law at the beginning of the year, the title fee on vehicles purchased after March 1 are replaced with a one-time tax paid up front instead of the annual “birthday tax.”
The tax commissioner is set to remit the estimated amount due to the school system, but those funds are not part of SPLOST collections. The title tax did mean that the school system was up on its expected ad valorem tax collections with about $900,000 additional to the general funds.
“As we plan our SPLOST projects in the future … we’re having to really be concerned what we’re spending the money on at this point,” Jones said. “As we go into the next campaign, we really need to look and see and be objective about how much we plan for that SPLOST to recommend.”
Projects planned for SPLOST funding have to be capital improvement projects and specified before the tax is voted on. Jones said the current SPLOST was planned not to exceed $59 million in collections, “but at this rate it may not exceed $55 million.” He added that new retail in the community may help to offset the drop in the future.
In another financial matter, Jones said that the current school system reserve, sitting at $3.5 million, may mean the school system may need to secure a tax anticipation note, or TAN, a low-interest loan to pay its expenses until it starts getting tax revenue for the upcoming year.
Since the school system depends on the tax revenue, which is replenished once a year during tax collection months, it generally has to pull from reserves as its general fund is depleted in the months before tax time. Although the general fund and reserves will be replenished when tax revenues come in, the school system still is on the hook to pay bills and expenses in the intervening months.
“Because of the last several years with the budget being planned using reserves to balance it, it is a real situation that I have to keep in mind,” Jones said. “The taxes are due Nov. 15, here we are in the middle of September, so we basically have to make it two more months without going in deficit.”
Jones said if needed, he would call a meeting to request the Board of Education vote on a TAN.
In another matter, the Board of Education on Thursday is set to vote on a capital outlay project application list, applying for state funding for certain school projects. Those include $965,155 for new floors at Troup High School, $278,876 for re-roofing at West Point Elementary School and $69,939 each for Hillcrest and Rosemont elementary schools for cafeteria upgrades.
The board also is set to vote Thursday on:
•Paying $40,425 to West Georgia RESA for the Youth Apprenticeship Program Contract. The contract will continue the school system’s services as a member of a consortia among Troup, Heard and Meriwether counties to employ the services of Dave Lewis to supervise its Youth Apprenticeship Work Based Learning Program.
•Paying $79,112.80 to Edgenuity for the 2013-2014 subscription renewal for e2020, which is an online instructional tool used for credit recovery at Troup, LaGrange and Callaway high schools and HOPE Academy for part of their regular instructional curriculum.
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