By Dan Pool, Editor
For much of the past year, I have editorialized and argued this SPLOST plan we vote on Tuesday didn’t contain nearly enough park spending. I spoke with our commissioners and encouraged them to significantly bump up the park allocations. They did increase it some.
I had hoped parks would have been the key item. The commissioners saw otherwise with 43 percent of the projected $37 million allocated to roads, while parks is second at 10 percent.
You don’t always get what you want, but, in this case, voting no for the SPLOST is a bad idea. Cutting off your nose to spite your face never works out.
SPLOST is business; it’s not a place to let political differences hurt the property owners who literally will foot the bill (via higher property taxes) if the SPLOST flops at the polls.
I had pushed the commissioners to be more creative, find things to improve the overall quality of life here. What they chose were nuts and bolts (details appear in Page 1A article). There is nothing frivolous in the package.
This point was made abundantly clear during the county budget hearings when the sheriff was asked if his officers aren’t supplied new patrol vehicles through the sales tax, how will they be provided reliable transportation? The sheriff made it plain, they have to have patrol cars and the money must come from somewhere.
Looking around there aren’t other sources besides the SPLOST to scrape up $150,000 in new patrol cars every year other than property taxes. And it is far better to see these cars funded one penny per dollar at cash registers rather than by property taxes.
Sales taxes are fair taxes. If you spend a lot, you pay more. If you don’t spend much, you don’t pay as much. There is the added perk that all those people stopping here on their way to the mountains fund our road paving, water improvements and public safety. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true when local people choose to shop out of town or online.
There is a sense of urgency with the more than $5 million in public safety spending and the $1.1 million water/sewage needs. Those things are needed and are going to be paid for soon.
From a strictly business-is-business standpoint, the 9.45 percent ($3.5 million) dedicated to erase debt at the airport makes the most sense to fund. What is being paid is a past debt for an idea that didn’t work out. The county’s plan under the final days of the Bill Newton administration of creating a commercial area connected to a taxiway has never gotten off the ground, to borrow a phrase we have used often over the past 15 years. The Progress ran a front page article from commercial aviation professional Dan Ashby warning this was a bad idea. Few agreed with him, believing businesses would flock to our airport. They haven’t.
Now, just like any small business mis-step, sometimes you must cut your losses. There is no reason to continue paying interest when we can pay it off. The county will own the horseshoe property and maybe something good will locate there eventually with a bunch of high-salary jobs and taxable private jets.
Paying old debts and paving roads may not be exciting but if you must do it, do it as painlessly as possible.
Vote yes to the SPLOST.