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Letters to the editor in opposition to SPLOST
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Forsyth County News


A  tax is a tax is a tax!If we approve this tax extension and then add the regional transportation tax, we will be one of the counties with a higher tax rate.

Instead of attracting this supposed 38 percent out-of-town taxpayers, we may chase away out-of-town taxpayers and in-town payers.

The amount of money projected is equal to more than two years of our annual budget. That is a lot of money to give the local politicians who will find a way to spend it.

Why are they in such a hurry to get this on the ballot? Because most folks do not vote in minor elections, so a few who want more taxes will decide for all. If this was really needed it would be on the ballot when we are voting for national office when everyone goes out to vote and at the same time the regional transportation tax will be voted on.

You give politicians money and they will spend it.

Dave Andrews


•   •   •

The recent article in the FCN was like a stacked deck. Only the employees of the departments were interviewed, except one of the tea party members.

Accordingly, every department head thinks they need more room, which is true, but why not renovate the current courthouse at a less costly endeavor. Just because they tell us $101 million, I bet it will be at least $120-$130 million before it is finished. This is normal when we are told one figure to get it passed and then the cost is elevated. If you don’t think so, look at the SPLOST for schools. This was passed by a large percentage because they threaten to raise taxes and then they raised taxes anyway.

I agree we need a jail update but I also think that the courts need to speed up their efforts to get people to court and finalize their case. We do not need people remaining in jail for five years waiting for their case to be heard. I bet it cost at least $30,000 a year to keep one prisoner in jail. This is terrible and the cost could be reduced very much by speeding up this process.

Also we do not need the sheriff’s office to take up over one-third of the county budget. This is very wrong and needs to be corrected.

I urge you to vote no and then maybe they will consider renovation before spending millions of dollars which we cannot afford during this recession.

Sid Barfield


•   •   •

Any vision of a village environment in downtown Cumming with shops, restaurants, green space and pleasant places for people to visit and enjoy has been on life support since 1977 when the classic, clock-towered courthouse that burned was replaced with the current, architecturally challenged courthouse we have today.

Downtown Cumming has evolved into a lifeless center of bureaucracy. The people are gone to Market Place Boulevard, The Avenue-Forsyth, Vickery and other places inside and outside Forsyth County.

If our city and county bureaucrats get their way with the construction of their ill-conceived, $100 million jail and court complex they are proposing for downtown Cumming, the village of Cumming will be dead. All that will remain will be a foreboding center of bureaucracy, a constant reminder of the power and dominance of government.

No one will go there except to conduct what has become the unpleasant business of dealing with the government; all the while that government is sucking down more and more tax dollars to do what they claim they know is best for us.

True, we need a new courthouse and public safety complex, but until these are planned prudently and mindful of the human environment and the needs and desires of the citizens of Forsyth County, as opposed to those of the bureaucrats, we can stop this bureaucratic disaster by refusing to provide the funds by voting against SPLOST VII.

William Byers


•   •   •

It is clear that SPLOST VII projects have been hurriedly selected without public input, and in some cases without careful assessment by county officials. At the GOP SPLOST VII debate on Monday evening, I was asked to provide a status of citizens’ concerns on Castleberry Road.

To support the potential of 18-wheelers running on a “Castleberry-like parkway” past two miles of subdivisions and a grammar school (on what is a pretty country road with little traffic), the county continues to use incorrect forecasted traffic counts to determine specific road improvements.

In 2004, a county authorized traffic study was cast down by the BOC after a privately funded study found the traffic forecasts were incorrect and Forsyth County engineering was asked to redo the study for a three-lane road.

This year, another traffic study was done and it is more flawed than the previous study. In the 20-year period ending 2030, the traffic study projects a 150 percent increase in traffic while Forsyth County’s comprehensive plan forecasts a 102 percent growth in population. This means that the study is overstating the traffic by 47 percent. A “private” traffic engineer found three other assumptions that further increase the overstatement — perhaps to 70 percent or more. He indicated that population growth is the single best factor for traffic forecasts.

If the overstatement is “just” 50 percent high, it will be hard to justify even a three-lane road versus just straightening some bad curves, adding a traffic light and some turn lanes, minor widening, and perhaps lowering the speed limit to 35 mph like Majors and other roads.

This letter asks how many other SPLOST VII projects are based on flawed or no studies, or even worse because they benefit a special interest group. A brief look at the jail’s inmate forecasts indicates potential flaws in the 20-30 percent range.

SPLOST VII has enough built in waste and uncertainties to say stop, particularly in this economic downturn. Let’s vote no and plan to do it right even if we have to wait until 2013.

Anthony DeMaria

Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth


•   •   •

SPLOST VII is not only a tax, it is debt. If SPLOST VII is voted into existence, Forsyth County will immediately issue debt (bonds) to begin the projects. It is hoped that the 1-cent sales tax generates enough receipts to pay off these bonds, but history proves we’ll need a new round of debt to pay off the original bonds.

Forsyth County issued $29 million in general obligation bonds in 2004 to pay off GO bonds issued in 2000. In 2008 Forsyth County issued two rounds of debt financing (SPLOST VI); 1) $83 million 2008A maturing in 2028 and 2) $35 million 2008B maturing in 2013. Total GO bonds equal $196.3 million through 2028. SPLOST VII increases that total debt obligation 107 percent to $406.3 million for 2011-2028. That’s $7,455 of debt per household over the next 18 years. The bulk of interest and principal payments are due 2016-2025.

The world is facing a sovereign debt crisis. The United States debt totals $15 trillion or 100 percent of GDP. At some point this will cause interest rates to rise on U.S. debt securities. What does this mean?

When interest rates rise on U.S. treasuries, it causes all interest rates to rise, even mortgages. A rise in mortgage rates makes the total cost of home ownership  rise, which depresses the housing market. Sellers then lower the selling price of their home in order to put that house into market equilibrium. This puts downward pressure on home values, which causes homeowner equity to fall and millage rate tax receipts to fall. Lower millage rate tax receipts cause Forsyth County to raise your millage tax rates.

The citizens of Forsyth County need to understand that SPLOST virtually guarantees a millage rate increase. In this case, an expanded jail and courthouse add costs to the county. These costs are paid for from millage tax receipts. Also, it is impossible in an inflationary economy with rising interest rates to accurately forecast sales tax receipts and, as history shows, we always issue a new SPLOST to pay for the old SPLOST.

Bill Evelyn


•   •   •

As a small business owner in this community, I was dismayed to see the recent large, glossy postcards that went out supporting the SPLOST tax.

I was most confused to see that the Citizens for Progress group who sent the mailer listed their address as 212 Kelly Mill Road.
212 Kelly Mill Road is the chamber of commerce. What interest could our chamber have in supporting a tax that seeks to build a giant, four-story jail, large court complex and even larger parking tower, in the center of our beautiful, quaint downtown Cumming? How could this possibly make our city more attractive to business?

The answer is apparent to anyone who chooses to take a look at the chamber’s list of board members. It reads like a who’s who of politicians and those with political aspirations. I urge anyone to go to its Web site and see this list for themselves,

And don’t tell me this conflict of interest is justified because we need a jail. Yes, we need a jail. We need one that won’t be obsolete 10 years after it is built (as this one will be), one that is built on land that can expand as needs expand (not on cramped downtown quarters), and one that demonstrates good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

By the way, what happened to the $7 million property that was purchased for a new jail some years back? Oh, yeah, we are being told it is not buildable. Maybe it’s being held as the future chamber of commerce headquarters?

Jeanne Latiolais


•   •   •

The arguments for and against SPLOST VII have been focused on the jail and the courthouse. But I think there are still plenty of questions regarding the other $100 million. For instance:

Why is there a $2.7 million expansion of the Sharon Forks library, when the Post Road library (a project on SPLOST VI) hasn’t been done yet? Wouldn’t it make more sense to complete SPLOST VI projects before we sign on for another tax? If the Post Road library was operational, maybe we wouldn’t need to upgrade Sharon Forks at this time.

In January, Forsyth County purchasing reported the cost of building an animal shelter at around $2 million. Why is SPLOST VII asking for $3 million? What changed in the five months between then and when the SPLOST projects were approved?

Also, we are told construction on a shelter can begin immediately. When Commissioner Levent was asked by an FCN reporter to explain how, he replied “All will be revealed after the election.” Just last week on a Facebook post, Commissioner Bell explained it might be more prudent to wait until the funds start to come in, allow them to accumulate and then build the shelter. That would delay construction for at least another four years. The county currently has enough money in the general fund to construct an animal shelter and still stay above the 25 percent budget reserve. Why do the commissioners insist they need SPLOST VII to build an animal shelter?

Are $4.5 million of sidewalks and bike paths in south Forsyth really critical transportation projects? Districts 4 and 5 account for 40 percent of the taxpayers, yet only around 1 percent of the SPLOST will be spent in those districts. In the case of District 4, the only projects are three intersection improvements within a few miles of the current commissioners’ home. Was a true needs analysis ever completed, or did they just pick things they saw on their way to work?

I believe the BOC needs to do their homework before they ask the voters to accept this level of tax.

Bill Mulrooney


•   •   •
The current list of projects under SPLOST VII includes Castleberry Road in both Tier A and Tier B. In order to fairly evaluate whether this project is justified requires some background.

The first time this appeared on a SPLOST ballot was March 18, 2003. However, the full scope was not known to the voters at this time.  It was not until April 11, 2003 that the Board of Commissioners voted “to make Castleberry Road four (4) lanes with raised landscaped median and curb & gutter.” At the time, this decision was made without having a traffic study performed. A traffic study was not performed until fall, 2004 after the Public Information Meeting of this project received overwhelming opposition. When the findings of this study were made available, there were many disputes regarding flawed growth rates.

Another traffic study was just performed this past summer. The current study proves that the growth rates used in 2004 were grossly overstated. According to the 2004 study, the Average Daily Traffic (ADT) on this road was 6,270. It was projected to grow by 20 percent and reach 7,524 in 2005, and to reach 13,169 in 2011. 

The current study finds ADT in 2011 to be 7,218. Seven years later, we haven’t even approached the volume that was expected the very next year in the 2004 study. Furthermore, there have been numerous residential developments along this road, commercial development at Castleberry and Bethelview, and a grade school.

The last seven years has delivered unprecedented growth and development, and still the traffic volume has not approached the projections for this road. Additionally, the most recent traffic study uses growth rates that exceed the actual growth experienced in the last seven years. Even using these inflated growth rates, the study finds that this road will not exceed “an unacceptable level of service” until 2025-27.

It is understood that the Castleberry project needs to be completed under SPLOST law. However, the board now has documentation that renders the original scope of this project unnecessary. The board still has the power to reduce the scope and make improvements to the road that do not negatively impact the residents that live adjacent to Castleberry. At a minimum, $3 million could be saved by changing the scope of this project. There are too many roads in Forsyth County that have a current rating of “deficient” now to warrant another round of SPLOST money for a project that is not warranted.

Kimberly Walsh


•   •   •

Once again SPLOST is back. Again we are inundated with reasons both real and imagined why we should continue to vote to levy an additional tax on ourselves.

I have lived in Forsyth County for 12 years and [it seems like] every election SPLOST has been on the ballot. Each time the monies are supposed to go to schools, roads etc.

Where is the accountability? We are told it’s the economy and not enough funds were raised again so we need to extend the SPLOST again, and that if it doesn’t get passed they will have to raise property taxes.

SPLOST is about “wants” and in this economy, Forsyth County should concentrate on needs and give the voters a tax break for at least one election cycle.

Each time we are presented with a list of projects, even though projects from previous SPLOSTs are not completed or started; those projects are carried over to the current SPLOST; at this rate, in this economy, we will be voting on SPLOST every ballot for the next 50 years to try to complete the list.

Take a stand and decide on this ballot to vote no to give yourself and your fellow voters a tax break.

Michele Baker