Update: SPLOST 7 package approved by Commissioners Friday

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News 12 at 11 / Friday, February 28, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Augusta Commission approves millions after the most crucial SPLOST meeting of the year.

If SPLOST VII didn't pass at the special called meeting Friday, we could have gone almost a year without any special local option sales tax money, which would have affected hundreds of buildings and businesses around the city. That includes the new cancer center at GRU. Getting this package to pass was no easy task.

"In order to get this SPLOST passed from the Commission, it took a lot of creativity," admitted Donnie Smith.

The creativity cam in moving around dollars and cents. Friday, commissioners turned more than $700 million in requests into an agreeable 194.3 million dollar SPLOST package.

"The initial request, or the wish list, was over $700 million, so to cull that down to below $200 million was a difficult task," Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

For voters to be able to see it on the May ballot, there was no other option but to come together, prioritize, and ask only for what you absolutely need.

It was a like a scene right out of the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" when George Bailey passes out money as people run on the bank.

"I've got 300 dollars here," one customer says.
"C'mon what'll it take until the bank reopens?" Bailey asks.
"Oh, I suppose I 20 dollars," the customer responds.
"OK, now you're talking," Bailey says.

Similar to that scene, the hour and a half long meeting was full of give and take, and thinking of the county as a whole instead of district by district.

"As you can see, there was a lot of trading that went on, back and forth, but ultimately at the end of the day, the commission made a decision," Smith said.

Now that it passed, SPLOST VII opens the door to a domino effect of funding. GRU's cancer center could get 8 million dollars from the city and 45 million dollars from the state.

SPLOST also means more than 21 million for the arts and cultural segment of Augusta, an area Mayor Deke Copenhaver says is key as people follow the Cyber Command to Ft. Gordon.

"As the Army tries to bring people here, it's all about the quality of life, and the arts and cultural community plays a huge role in that," Mayor Copenhaver said.

It's a package with an emphasis on planning for the future of Augusta, and the potential for growth, and it all starts with a penny.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy wanted to make sure a new James Brown Community Center to be built on Paine College's campus was fully funded, and it is at 8 million dollars.

We have attached the breakdown of exactly how the money will be spent according to the SPLOST package that passed the Commission.

Voters will have the final say in the primary on May 20th.


Friday, Feb. 28, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- SPLOST 7 was voted into life today and Augusta's mayor said it passed just in time.

It passed at a grand total of $194.3 million which is a severe cut from the more than $700 million requested.

All 6 commissioners who were there voted to pass the revised SPLOST 7 package.

It was a deadline that couldn't be missed if Commissioners wanted to get these allocations on the May 20 ballot.

At the meeting, there was a lot of back and forth between commissioners Donnie Smith and Bill Fennoy mainly concerning the funds for dilapidated houses, Paine college, and museums in the area.

"In order to get this splost passed from the commission, it took a lot of creativity, we made several attempts at moving money around within the framework with what we had to work with," Commissioner Smith said.

The passing allowed the county to go ahead and fund $8 million for the cancer center.

The breakdown of all the final numbers is still being put together in the finance department.

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