This seems to be the new scuttlebutt around town right now. If you are looking for me to tell you to vote for or against SPLOST, do not continue reading this editorial. That is your decision to make.
The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will once again be put before voters in just a few short weeks (March 21). There is much debate raging in our community, currently, about this particular SPLOST and possibly a couple of areas that seem to be causing great concern among citizens.
I have served on the past three SPLOST committees. It is not an easy task. Each time I have served, the number of requests has far exceeded the amount of money projected to be available. Such was the case with the presentations made for months to the 2024 SPLOST committee this past year. When the presentations started, we were told to expect having approximately $22,000,000.00 to work with. When all presentations had been made, we were hit with well over $30,000,000.00 in requests. It was the job of the committee to then make cuts to reach the projected $22,000,000.00 threshold, which it did.
The committee then submitted its recommendations to the Appling County Commissioners. The commissioners could agree with the recommendations or make changes to the recommendations. The current board of commissioners elected to make a number of changes/edits, maybe the most ever made, to the committee’s recommendations. One such change was adding a new courthouse complex at a cost of $2,000,000.00. To my knowledge, no presentation was ever made to the SPLOST committee regarding a new courthouse complex. This has become one of the items on this proposed SPLOST the community seems to be struggling with.
I have always been a strong supporter of SPLOST-type taxation. I believe it is one of the fairest forms of taxation. Practically everyone contributes.
However, I believe where another bone of contention may exist with some folks is that they believe we are possibly not getting the most bang for our buck, or maybe some of our tax dollars have been spent recklessly by some elected officials. I believe there could be merit to this accusation and here’s why. Since the adoption of SPLOST, LOST, ESPLOST and TSPLOST (or TIA), we have witnessed new taxation of more than $10,000,000.00 annually in Appling County alone. One of the selling points to adding sales taxation was that it would help alleviate some of the ad valorem tax burden on property owners. Again, to my knowledge, this has not happened.
Despite the problems with elected officials’ spending, I still support sales taxation, such as SPLOST. There are some important items on this particular SPLOST in my opinion that hold weight. Road improvements would be a top concern to me as a voter. As a citizen of Baxley, and local business owner, the city has several needs that I’d like to see funded as well, including moving the Baxley Police Department behind City Hall to provide better protection for more of our city. The industrial park entrance development of the new park on Highway 341 East is also another good item in my opinion.
Whether you decide to vote “yes” or “no” is your right. I would caution you to weigh out all options and make sure you are making an informed/educated decision.
Possibly, the one good thing that will come from all this current banter among citizens and elected officials is that maybe it will make elected officials more cautious with the spending of our sales tax revenues. There is certainly nothing wrong with citizens wanting their elected officials to be good stewards of their money.
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