Forsyth County voters on Tuesday will determine the fate of SPLOST VII, a 1 percent sales tax collection and spending plan that would finance a variety of projects if approved by the voters.
We have said in the past, and say again, that the consumption based sales tax is the best way for the county to finance major capital projects. Unlike property taxes, sales taxes are paid by everyone, regardless of whether they own property, rent a home, or simply stop for chips and a bottle of water while riding through town.
Critics of SPLOST VII tend to focus in on individual aspects of the capital project proposal in trying to mount opposition to the tax. They don’t want to build a jail in downtown Cumming, so they will vote against major road projects. They don’t like the road projects being proposed, and are willing to vote against fire trucks as a result. They dislike where the courthouse will be built, so will vote no even if they agree transportation projects are needed.
It’s important to look at the big picture.
If approved, SPLOST VII will provide funding for major road improvements, a new jail, a courthouse and parking facility, replacement fire engines, an animal shelter, an emergency water generator and a library expansion.
The question before voters shouldn’t be whether any one of those projects is perfect as described, but rather whether taken as a whole they are essential and deserving of voter support.
We think they are.
Does the county need a new jail? Yes.
Does the county need a new courthouse? Yes.
Is transportation a major problem in the county and one that can be improved by the proposed road projects? Yes.
Is a sales tax the fairest way to address such major capital expenditure needs? Yes.
Is SPLOST VII perfect? No, but no sales tax program with a built-in expiration date can ever be perfect.
When you look at the big picture – the scope of the projects proposed, the cost for doing them, and their importance to the county – we still believe the tax is deserving of a yes vote.
Ironically, one of the oft repeated laments of those opposed to this SPLOST is that the county is seeking money to build a new jail and courthouse during dire economic conditions and that the vote should be postponed. Those who pose such an argument conveniently forget that the same questions were put to voters in much better economic times, only to be rejected. The jail issue, for example, has been put before voters four other times in the past 10 years, and rejected each time.
Previous votes on the jail and courthouse would have resulted in the issuance of general obligation bonds, which would have been financed solely by property taxes. Building those projects with sales tax money takes the financial load of the shoulders of property owns and spreads it to everyone.
SPLOST programs aren’t perfect. It is impossible to predict how much sales tax money will be collected during the duration of a SPLOST, and there is always the possibility that there will not be funding available for every project proposed. That is simply the nature of a penny-per-dollar sales tax collected for a limited period of time, and is still preferable to putting an onerous financial burden on those who pay property taxes.
When you geth to the polls Tuesday, look at the big picture. Ask yourself if the projects proposed are needed, if the sales tax is the fairest way to pay for them, and if the county you call home will be better for the approval of SPLOST VII.
We think the answer to those questions will be yes, and encourage you to vote yes for continuing the sales tax that already is in place.