Budgets and check registers show sloppy SPLOST account maintenance in Columbia County
SPLOST collections have declined in Columbia County, but a review of proposed and actual budgets, audit reports, and check registers indicate that county officials may have used some of the funds inappropriately, slowing down timeslines project completion.
State law requires that SPLOST expenditures be limited to ‘capital expenditures,’ most often defined as infrastructure construction and improvements. While road construction and paving is one of the most common expenditures, cities and counties also use SPLOST dollars for building repairs, purchases of equipment, and even property aquisition. Contractors and engineers for projects are approved as well, but employees, benefits, and other man power-related costs are not.
But Columbia County budgets indicate that a longtime practice was to pay for salaries of employees, health benefits, travel, and even sick time for employees classified in the SPLOST department – another uncommon practice. Most cities and counties are pressed to complete SPLOST projects with the employees currently on staff who are otherwise working for that entity. The danger in having employees paid with SPLOST money is the instability of collections and the inability to guarantee collections.
In FY 2011, FY 2012 and FY 2013, Columbia County spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on salaries and benefits which should have been paid by the General Fund.