Future of sales tax funds unclear

Debate over what projects will be funded and who decides on those projects left the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) without a clear path forward for the estimated $39 million to be collected on the half cent local option sales tax, or LOST, Tuesday following the board’s annual Planning Workshop.

A proposal by County Administrator Tony Gomillion based on BOCC direction and staff recommendations suggested a list of projects already on the county radar.

Commissioner Lane Lynchard said he worried that the list of projects presented did not accurately represent what was sold to voters with the tax, specifically stating that voters were promised support to fire departments and law enforcement.

Commission Chairman Rob Williamson said he was under the impression that funding projects that staff had already discussed was the original intention or “spirit of the ballot language.”

“Just because we suddenly have a local option sales tax I didn’t think we needed to suddenly lean in and listen to the needs of the people. I thought we were already doing that,” he said. “I thought the goal was to take some pressure off the general fund.”

Through lengthy discussion the board determined that they would need to hold public meetings in the districts of the county on the issue regarding the projects list, though Williamson said the existing list should be brought forward during those meetings.

While the board did not have a clear consensus on how much of the tax should be dedicated to fire departments, there was even further dissent among the board and committee members regarding how the allotment process would work.

The proposed structure put the newly created Surtax Oversight Committee as reviewing an already vetted and board approved five year plan at the end of the selection process. While the committee members would then be asked to provide comment to the BOCC, committee member Scott Kemp said that is not what he signed on for and that he would prefer it follow a model similar to the RESTORE BP oil spill money distributions.

But committee member Tamara Fountain argued that it is not the committees place to make those decisions.

For the full story, including a break down of the proposed projects, pickup the Feb. 16 issue of the Navarre Press.

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