In the parlance of the CB craze a few decades ago, we hope Forsyth County officials have “got their ears on.”
If they do, they’ll realize that while county voters last week endorsed the continuation of the Special Purposed Local Option Sales Tax, a number of legitimate issues were raised during the weeks leading up to the SPLOST vote that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis.
The 52-48 percent margin of victory was not nearly as wide as those of previous SPLOST votes, and if county officials hope to continue the program in years to come they would do well to pay attention to concerns raised by those not in favor of the sales tax.
Simply put, those responsible for spending the millions raised by the tax have to do so in an efficient and responsible manner if they don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
SPLOST VII is going to finance some major projects, most notably construction of a new courthouse and jail as well as major road projects. It is the size and scope of such projects that make them easy targets for those who doubt the ability of elected officials to be good stewards of the public’s money.
If there is to be a SPLOST VIII somewhere down the road, those who make decisions about spending revenues from SPLOST VII have to understand that their actions will be placed under a microscope of public scrutiny.
It is vital that plans for the courthouse and jail result in the construction of efficient buildings that place functionality above aesthetics. There have to be realistic budgets without the sort of inexplicable cost overruns that seem to be the norm in government building projects. There has to be transparency in the awarding of bids and contracts without any hint of wrongdoing. Construction timetables have to be met.
The same is true with the various road projects to be financed with SPLOST funds.
With the narrowness of last week’s vote, public officials have to understand that that cannot take for granted that the sales tax program is automatically going to be approved in future referenda. There are valid concerns that the practice of borrowing in advance against future sales tax collections perpetuates a desperate and urgent necessity to continue the program.
The best way for those responsible for spending SPLOST money to assure that the sales tax remains a viable financing option for capital projects is to do what they have promised will be done, to get it done as efficiently as possible without the levels of waste the public has come to expect from government spending, and to do so in an open manner so that there is no hint of scandal or wrongdoing.
Only time will tell if those now in office, and their successors, can read the tea leaves and understand what the voters were saying. If they fail to do so, the county’s future may not be nearly as bright as has been its recent past.