The ACC Commission has agreed on a plan to rank projects from SPLOST 2020 into twelve tiers, with higher tiers being funded first as sales tax revenue is collected.
The ranking order of this particular set of SPLOST projects is even more important than it would be normally. Spanning twelve years, SPLOST 2020 is the longest such program ever attempted in Athens. That means it may be decades before lower-ranked projects are completed.
SPLOST 2020 Tiering
The “Big Three”
Why are the biggest projects being funded first? Well, two of the three are being prioritized by the commission because they are highly reliant on external funding, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or private investors, which have their own timetables. These are the North Downtown Athens project and the Classic Center Arena — they’ve got to top the list if they are to be done at all.
The third big-ticket project, “Facilities Space Modernization,” includes the construction of a new courthouse and the consolidating of several scattered government buildings into the current courthouse. This one is being prioritized because of the efficiencies it provides. For example, the new courthouse will be far more energy efficient than the current one, which is a century old.
Some of the older government buildings also are not very efficient. Also, they will be in need of repairs or renovations over the next decade; far better to sell them as soon as possible and bring all of these government employees together under one roof. If the Facilities Space Modernization project was not prioritized, even more funding would need to be carved out of the budget for repairs and energy costs than is currently expected.
Together, these three projects make up roughly half of the $314 million SPLOST package and are heavily front-loaded — $146 million will be spent on them in the first four years of the SPLOST. Since the revenue from the 1% sales tax that’s funding all of this won’t be collected that quickly, the remainder will be borrowed.
With interest rates at historic lows, borrowing a large amount of money here doesn’t seem to be a bad idea at all, since it will help move these projects along more quickly.
Other Top Tier Projects
A number of smaller projects also have most or all of their funding included in the first four years of SPLOST 2020 (that’s fiscal years 2021 to 2024 to be precise). These are:
- Public safety vehicles
- An exhibit for Sandy Creek Nature Center
- Memorial Park improvements
- A mobile medical lab
- Bishop Park improvements
- Eastside public library
- A mental health recovery facility
- Vincent Drive sidewalk
- East Athens Youth & Community
- Broadband connectivity enhancement
- Water trails
- Animal Shelter improvements
Projects that will have to wait
Some projects don’t get most or even all of their funding until the final four years (2029 to 2032). These are:
- E911 Phone system replacement
- Environmental mitigation and restoration
- Holland Youth Sports complex
- Athens West Park project
- Beech Haven park
- Tallassee Forest Nature Preserve
- Bear Hollow Zoo improvements
- Welcome Center access improvements
- Tallassee Road Connector project
- Jackson Street Art Walk
- Live stream pipe replacements
Projects coming in a little at a time
Another group of projects is funded evenly throughout the entire SPLOST. These are:
- Protective gear for firefighters
- Greenspace acquisition and sustainability
- Renewable energy
- Projects for Winterville and Bogart
- Debt service
If you’d like to see the exact timeline of when funding is estimated to come in for every project on the SPLOST 2020 list, check out this spreadsheet.