Forest Park joins SPLOST audit

Mayors from all seven cities in Clayton County suspicious of allocations

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart

FOREST PARK — Forest Park agreed this week to join Lovejoy and other Clayton County cities in performing a forensic audit to make sure each city is getting its fair share of SPLOST funds.

“The cities may well be entitled to dispersions in the millions amongst the cities,” said Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart Monday.

The council unanimously approved a resolution that allowed the mayor to join the other Clayton County cities in splitting the cost of a $25,000 contract to work with a forensic accounting firm, Marshall Mitchell & Associates. The cost of the contract would be split up depending on the percentage of SPLOST money each city pulls in — meaning Forest Park would shoulder about $10,000 of the cost.

The idea for the audit began in Lovejoy.

The council there approved a resolution in late July allowing Mayor Bobby Cartwright to negotiate with the other cities to determine whether to pursue an independent audit of Clayton County’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.

Cities use SPLOST money to fund specific capital improvement projects such as road maintenance and repairs, just as the county does.

Cartwright told the Lovejoy council he felt it was necessary to investigate whether all the county’s monthly collections of SPLOST were divided and dispersed properly to the cities.

He said he believes Lovejoy may be due as much as $350,000, according to preliminary research.

It is unclear how much SPLOST money each city might be due, but Lovejoy and Forest Park officials don’t seem to be the only ones suspicious of SPLOST dollars. Lockhart said all seven mayors agreed with the audit when they met recently, although some cities still need approval of their respective councils.

“In essence, yes, the other cities have agreed to share in the expenses,” said Lockhart.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said he doesn’t think SPLOST funds have been under-allocated, but he said the county financial experts are busy looking into the issue anyway.

“We are researching that and if there are any discrepancies, we will sit down and talk to (the cities),” he said. “Their concern is my concern.”