On the Net
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The Forsyth County Tea Party has come out in opposition of the upcoming referendum to extend the 1-cent sales tax.
By Chairman Steve Voshall’s math, a "no" vote in the Nov. 8 special election could save county families about $500 each year for the six years that a "yes" vote would extend the tax.
"People have got to start getting involved. They’ve got to get out and vote," Voshall said. "Otherwise, a few thousand people are going to make the decisions for the 160,000 of us to pay for."
His organization isn’t the only one in opposition to the tax extension. The Concerned Citizens of Forsyth County sees it as unnecessary, said Trilby Leech, a founder.
"What you hear from one tea party group, you’re going to hear from all of us," Leech said. "At this point in time, when things are so tight, government should be spending money for actually necessary items."
The fate of the special purpose local option sales tax, also known as SPLOST, will be decided in less than two months. The extension is projected to collect $200 million between 2013-19.
While Leech and Voshall’s groups don’t like the proposal, some county residents have formed an organization in support of it.
Organizers of the Citizens for Progress have said they don’t want "anybody uninformed" on the possible tax extension.
The current sixth round of the sales tax doesn’t expire until June 2013.
But if voters agree this fall, the plan calls for spending $101 million of SPLOST VII revenue to build a new courthouse and emergency water generator, as well as expand the Forsyth County Detention Center.
The existing jail and courthouse, which both date to the 1970s, are crowded, authorities say.
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.
Voshall said city and county officials have been pushing the need for a jail expansion and new courthouse.
"We’re constantly being told that we’re going to be forced to have a new prison by a judge," he said.
"The jail [itself] is not the issue — they want that to be their sounding board. The issue is really why a new jail now in the middle of the worst recession this county’s faced since probably the ’30s."
If the governments wait a few years for the economy to turn around, Voshall said, families may be better able to afford the tax.
He added that the proposed projects must be fiscally responsible.
"Even at that point, you still cannot justify a $60 million courthouse," he said. "It’s like they all seem to think they’re winning the $200-million tax lottery, and they all sit around the table and decide how they’re going to get a piece of that pie."
Anything that’s built, he said, also requires money to be maintained.
Voshall said other smaller projects on the referendum, such as an animal shelter, water pump or road improvements, can be funded from the county’s budget.
Several categories on the ballot, he said, vaguely describe projects to give government more leeway for filling in what’s needed later.
Voshall also took exception to the timing of the vote.
"Why are you doing this in a special referendum and trying to slide it in the back door, rather than put it in an election next year when everyone’s going to be voting," he said.
Leech said the county probably will need the jail and courthouse updated eventually, but the proposals she’s seen are over the top.
"We don’t need another Taj Mahal," she said. "What we need is a building that functions."