SPLOST question: What can penny sales tax funds be used for?

Augusta voters are set to vote on the consolidated government’s latest special purpose local option sales tax May 20. The Augusta Chronicle addresses the 1 percent sales tax collection in a continuing series until election day.

Q: What can penny sales tax funds be used for?

A: Projects eligible for special purpose local option sales tax funds under Georgia code include construction; maintenance of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks and bicycle paths; land acquisition, drainage and utility work. Publicly owned water, sewer, stormwater and drainage “capital outlay” projects – of a long-lived nature – also may be funded. Dollars may fund construction but not maintenance of public facilities, including courthouses, administrative buildings, civic centers, jails, and others.

From there, usage is less clear. When Augusta allocates funds to outside entities – such as $6 million for Paine College’s new James Brown Community and Fine Arts Center or $4.25 million for Symphony Orchestra Augusta to renovate the Miller Theater – a contract ensures the facility will be open to and serve the public, said Tim Schroer, the deputy city finance director. If the entities sell the projects, the city would get most of its money back, Schroer said. Clint Mueller, the legislative director for Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the entity that lobbied for creation of the tax in 1985, said requirements for funds to outside entities are greater. The government needs “joint ownership at the very least.”

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