GOP leader: County is sitting on SPLOST money

JONESBORO — Clayton County Republican Party President Carl Swensson has blasted the county commission for sitting on $208.3 million in sales tax funds collected since 2004 for recreation centers and transportation and safety projects.

Swensson confronted the commission at its meeting last week about the unused funds. Commissioners sat quietly and did not respond to his accusations, however.

Swensson later produced Wells Fargo bank statements for each SPLOST account. They show the account for the $240 million SPLOST approved in 2003 to fund construction of recreation centers still has a balance of $115.7 million. The total represents nearly half of the money collected through that tax.

The bank statement for the account holding funds from the $350 million transportation and public safety SPLOST approved in 2008 shows a balance of $92.6 million.

“It should be noted that better-run counties maintain little in their SPLOST fund accounts because, unlike Clayton, they actually use them to improve their roads and spend them for the purposes they were originally intended,” said Swensson.

Swensson’s accusations resurrect claims made in 2008 by then-Clayton County NAACP President Dexter Matthews. Matthews called for voters to reject the 2008 SPLOST proposal, claiming the county had not delivered on items promised when the 2003 SPLOST was approved.

Most notably, Matthews argued the county still hadn’t built two of the five recreation centers promised through the 2003 SPLOST.

“Right now, they have not given us anything,” said Matthews in the Feb. 4, 2008, edition of Clayton News Daily. “They just want us to trust them.”

Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell responded by saying, “It is inconceivable how any organization, group or individual could opt to spend taxpayers money ... on capital improvement and not use the instrument provided to us by the state to raise money to do capital improvement.”

Bell said at the time the construction on the two remaining recreation centers would begin by the end of February 2008.

Construction did not begin on the first of those two centers until this year.

Election results show 59.2 percent of Clayton County voters voted to approve the 2008 SPLOST. It was intended to fund the construction of a new juvenile justice center three new police precincts, a multipurpose fire training facility, two new libraries, a senior center for the southwest part of the county and infrastructure projects in the county’s seven cities.

Of those county-level projects, land has been bought for one new police precinct but only the juvenile justice center and a replacement facility for the Forest Park library are under construction.