Commissioners postpone T-SPLOST vote; no timetable for referendum

Photo of pennies with the title Henry County T-SPLOST (staff photo)

Henry County commissioners were faced with a tight deadline to make the November ballot when they opted on June 10 to pursue a transportation SPLOST referendum. Following the cancellation of a joint meeting with the four cities to discuss the program and ongoing limitations to in-person meetings due to COVID-19, the board voted on Tuesday night to delay the referendum.

The motion passed 5-1 with Commissioner Bruce Holmes opposed.

No timetable has been set for the public referendum, with at least one commissioner ready to delay the vote until November 2022. Commissioner Holmes commented the ballot question wouldn’t pass during a special election and it should be held during a general election.

Other board members were not in favor of delaying the vote two full years with March 2021 mentioned as an alternative. Commissioner Clemmons suggested the board partner with the school system — whose education SPLOST program is up for renewal next year — to place the two sales tax questions on the same ballot.

The transportation SPLOST program, if approved, would raise the local sales tax rate from seven to eight percent. County commissioners may ask voters for a full one-percent tax increase if the board and the four cities can reach an intergovernmental agreement. Without an IGA, the board is limited to asking for a 0.75-cent increase.

The city of Hampton has publicly expressed no interest in a T-SPLOST program. Grievances that the city lists against the county include what the council considers to be a failure on Henry County’s part to honor the 2010 service delivery strategy (SDS) agreement for road maintenance and the ongoing deliberations for the 2020 SDS. Negotiations for the SDS have been in court-ordered mediation since late spring 2019 after the agreement expired on February 28, 2019.

In this week’s resolution to postpone the referendum, commissioners instructed county staff to continue discussions with the four cities about possible projects and continue to draft the proposed project list. In the motion to postpone the vote, Clemmons included reference that the funds should be evenly divided between the five districts.