Opinion

January 5, 2014

Voters need details before any SPLOST approval

The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners is looking at putting a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot, and judging from comments made recently by Chairman Mike Babb, they have learned from the failures of past SPLOSTs.

Babb has said that any SPLOST request will be limited in duration and targeted at items that voters will widely accept as truly needed, such as public safety and road resurfacing and repairs.

Past SPLOSTs have failed because voters, right or wrong, tended to see the projects they would fund as a grab bag of items wanted by the commissioners, not a tightly focused list of high-priority needs that couldn’t be funded from general revenue. They have failed because, again right or wrong, voters believed that commissioners had decided they had to have a certain amount of money and then set out to determine what it should be spent on.

If commissioners come before they voters with another SPLOST, they must have a very specific list of items and projects that it will fund. They can’t simply say it will go to roads and the sheriff’s and fire department and expect voters to approve it. They must explain why those items are needed, why they are needed now and why they can’t find the money in general revenue to pay for them.

If they can do that, voters will approve the SPLOST. They have in the past. Despite its strong anti-tax reputation, Whitfield County has approved SPLOSTs in the past to pay to extend water into the county, to expand the courthouse and for various road projects, among other items. If they are convinced the money will be spent well, Whitfield County voters will vote for a tax, though maybe only grudgingly.



Babb has said that any SPLOST request will be limited in duration and targeted at items that voters will widely accept as truly needed, such as public safety and road resurfacing and repairs.

Past SPLOSTs have failed because voters, right or wrong, tended to see the projects they would fund as a grab bag of items wanted by the commissioners, not a tightly focused list of high-priority needs that couldn’t be funded from general revenue. They have failed because, again right or wrong, voters believed that commissioners had decided they had to have a certain amount of money and then set out to determine what it should be spent on.

If commissioners come before they voters with another SPLOST, they must have a very specific list of items and projects that it will fund. They can’t simply say it will go to roads and the sheriff’s and fire department and expect voters to approve it. They must explain why those items are needed, why they are needed now and why they can’t find the money in general revenue to pay for them.

If they can do that, voters will approve the SPLOST. They have in the past. Despite its strong anti-tax reputation, Whitfield County has approved SPLOSTs in the past to pay to extend water into the county, to expand the courthouse and for various road projects, among other items. If they are convinced the money will be spent well, Whitfield County voters will vote for a tax, though maybe only grudgingly.

 

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