The Villa Rica City Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday to enter into an agreement with Douglas County, Austell and Douglasville regarding the proposed SPLOST and the disbursement of estimated funds to be collected.
A portion of Villa Rica extends into Douglas County.
Villa Rica’s share of the anticipated $166 million in revenues generated is 3.25 percent, or $2,697,500, compared with Douglasville’s $18,069,100 and Austell’s $116,200. The disbursement of funds was based on 2006 population estimates by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Douglas County’s primary focus in calling for the SPLOST referendum is to raise funds for what it is calling its Tier I project - a new law enforcement center/jail to be built near the Douglas County Courthouse. Half of the projected SPLOST proceeds - $83 million - have been earmarked for that project.
Douglas County attempted to get a similar measure approved in 2006, but that referendum failed, in large part due to a lack of support for building the new jail at the site of the current jail facility in downtown Douglasville.
If the measure fails again, the agreement states that Douglas County will pay for the cost of the referendum. If it passes, the cities will pay a portion based on their population percentage that will be deducted from their respective SPLOST proceeds.
According to Villa Rica City Manager Danny Mabry, Douglas County will initially fund the law enforcement center with the issuance of bonds and then retire those bonds with SPLOST proceeds.
All the cities that entered into the intergovernmental SPLOST agreement also agreed to allow Douglas County to use SPLOST funds outside of the anticipated $83 million Tier 1 funds to retire the bond debt if there isn’t enough collected to pay off the bonds. If that is the case, funds for each city would be adjusted on a prorated basis.
Villa Rica officials said they were pleased that Douglas County was using the 2006 population estimates instead of the 2000 census figures that have been used in the past. City officials maintained throughout SPLOST negotiations that the 2000 population figures don’t take into account the tremendous growth Villa Rica has had into Douglas County the last several years.
The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that Villa Rica had a population of 9,897 in 2005 and 4,134 in 2000.
“Hopefully, this will usher in a new era of cooperation between Villa Rica and Douglas County,” Councilman Danny Carter said. “I appreciate them listening to reason. When we went in there to meet with them, Mr. Mabry pointed out to them that they ought to use the current population figures and they did.”
Villa Rica was originally projected to receive $600,000 in Douglas County’s 2001 SPLOST, which began collections Jan. 1, 2002, and ends Dec. 31. That estimate was dropped midway through the life of the SPLOST because of a lag in the economy. However, Villa Rica Finance Manager Larry Wood said collections have picked up and the city may end up receiving near the original estimate.
Of the original $600,000 Villa Rica was to receive, $82,000 was earmarked for road improvement projects, $504,000 was for sewer improvements and $14,000 was for recreation projects.
About $486,000 of Villa Rica’s share of the 2001 SPLOST has been collected but has yet to be spent by the city. Only the money earmarked for road improvements and recreation projects has been spent.
Reportedly, the new agreement would reserve about $1 million each for roads and sewer improvements in Villa Rica and about $660,000 for recreation.
Mayor J. Collins said the recent spirit of cooperation being shown by the Douglas County government is a sign that the gap that has existed between Villa Rica and Douglas County in the past is finally being bridged.
“I want to thank Douglas County for their cooperation on the SPLOST with us,” he said. “I feel this is just one of many issues that’s going to bring the city of Villa Rica and Douglas County together.”
Douglas County voters will have the opportunity to vote on the SPLOST referendum on Sept. 18. If approved, collections would begin on Jan. 1, 2008.