Our community has a great opportunity to make a wise and much needed investment in our future. The referendum to renew the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is one of the most significant decisions our community has had the opportunity to make in many years. With the county budget already strained due to the economy, there has never been a better time to renew our SPLOST to fund infrastructure improvements. It is important for each of us to know the facts and to make intelligent decisions when voting on the future of our community.
This is a "meat and potatoes" SPLOST. There are no luxury items on the list. Each project was discussed in great detail in a series of public meetings. Through public input and scrutiny, the list of projects approved represents the desire of citizens in deciding how they want dollars for transportation, public safety, and other critical infrastructure improvements to be spent.
One of the largest expenditures in SPLOST is for road and highway construction. Nearly $70 million is dedicated to transportation to help alleviate congestion and improve the safety of our roads. These projects include but are not limited to proposed road widening on McFarland Parkway, McGinnis Ferry Road, Pilgrim Mill Road, and Union Hill Road. There are also many intersection improvement projects proposed, including but not limited to State Route 369 and State Route 9. If we fail to make this important investment in our infrastructure now, it will be even more expensive and challenging for us to catch up in the future.
The sales tax dollars will also be used to expand the jail at the current location and build a much-needed courthouse with a secure connection between the two buildings. While this is about achieving long-term efficiencies, it is more importantly a public safety issue. One of the first requirements of business is the ability to operate and function in a safe environment. If we fail to provide this environment, we are at risk of losing jobs to neighboring communities.
It is also important to know that the jail expansion and new courthouse will pay for themselves in less than10 years and provide for valuable reinvestment in the community. All options for the jail and courthouse were carefully reviewed and considered. The plan before voters this November achieves the highest level of efficiency at the lowest cost to taxpayers. You, the citizens of Forsyth County, deserve to have up-to-date and efficient facilities and our public safety workers deserve a safe and secure environment to carry out their duties.
In making a decision, you should also consider that according to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey and U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Retail Trade, 38 percent of all sales taxes collected in our community are from non-Forsyth County residents. Rather than funding these critical transportation and infrastructure improvements through property taxes, which are paid entirely by county residents, why not deflect nearly 40 percent to nonresidents? Moreover, this is not a new tax for our community. This a vote to continue an existing tax, and one that has funded hundreds of critical projects that we now often take for granted.
It is also no small consideration that Forsyth County Commissioners and the Cumming City Council unanimously approved SPLOST projects. Such agreement has not always been easy to achieve in Forsyth County — but the leaders of our community have stepped up and agreed on the projects to be funded by SPLOST.
SPLOST is transparent. By holding our elected leaders accountable to funding the project list presented, SPLOST is the most transparent funding mechanism for much needed transportation and public safety projects.
When going to the polls on November 8, vote to support the future of our community by voting YES to continue SPLOST.
Jayne Iglesias is co-chairwoman of Citizens for Progress.