In anticipation of the Nov. 8 referendum on the issue, some Forsyth County residents have formed a group in support of extending the 1-cent sales tax.
Co-chair David Seago said the nonprofit Citizens for Progress doesn’t want "anybody uninformed" about the special purpose local option sales tax, also known as SPLOST VII.
"In this economy, tax has just become an ugly word, but we’re trying to make sure that this is not an ugly word," he said. "And SPLOST is not an ugly word. It’s a good thing for Forsyth County."
The group is just getting started, Seago said. Until the November vote, members will make public appearances and hand out literature.
Organizers hope to get their Web site, www.ForsythSPLOST.org, up and running soon.
One of the main issues Seago wants people to consider is the vote is not to levy a new tax, but rather to extend one that’s been in place since 1983.
The current round of the sales tax doesn’t expire until June 2013. However, voter approval in November would extend collections through 2019 for the projects on the ballot.
Those projects, he said, are "truly about what we need in the county."
If voters agree, the plan calls for spending $101 million of the tax extension revenue to build a new courthouse and emergency water generator, as well as expand the jail.
The tax is projected to collect $200 million over the course of a six-year span from 2013-19.
According to the agreement, the tax revenue after the first $101 million would be split, with 87.5 percent going to the county and 12.5 percent to the city of Cumming.
Other county projects include about $70 million for transportation improvements, about $3 million for an animal shelter and $3.9 million to replace fire engines.
The city’s list includes an estimated $7 million for park and recreation projects and about $5.5 million for road improvements.
To group co-chair Jayne Iglesias, the proposed projects leave out "the fluff." The jail and courthouse are definite needs.
Paying for facilities through a sales tax would prevent the possibility of the state ordering construction of new buildings due to overcrowding, she said.
"With this SPLOST, it gives us the option to go ahead and build it, have some room for expansion later on so that we don’t have to be backpedaling again like we are right now, and look toward our future," Iglesias said.
Iglesias also co-chaired Citizens 4 Kids, a group that backed the extension of the 1-cent sales tax for education, which voters approved in March.
"I truly believe that if you want a great community, you have to get involved," she said.
For Seago, this committee is the first of its kind after retiring from a career that had required him to remain publicly neutral.
Seago has always been interested in the campaigns for sales taxes, which he said have provided much-needed infrastructure. He’s glad the vote is being held in November.
"It’s not a major election year. To get people really focused on the project list, it’s just a good time to do it," he said. "It’s very easy for a SPLOST to get lost in a major election, and this one doesn’t need to get lost. It’s just too important."