Brown: SPLOSTs sometimes good

The city of Fayetteville recently stated they have $5 million worth of stormwater projects they cannot fund. City staff will be reviewing projects with the mayor and council.

Your Board of Commissioners is using our proposed share of the two-year Core Infrastructure SPLOST proceeds for unincorporated stormwater maintenance and replacement, decades in arrears. We are also committed to adding a clause in the referendum language halting the stormwater fee for residents in the incorporated county stormwater system for four consecutive years if the SPLOST passes.

Admittedly, your county government is playing catch-up on stormwater maintenance and repair as we are overwhelmed with projects and have little funding. We are taking ownership of the problem and are committed to start rectifying the situation.

Some comments have been made about the proposed two-year SPLOST, especially making comparisons with past SPLOST attempts. A couple of elected officials have implied a level of hypocrisy exists if I opposed SPLOSTs in the past, but support the proposed two-year core infrastructure SPLOST.

There has been some confusion over what constitutes a good SPLOST and a bad SPLOST. Simply, the worth of a SPLOST rests in the value of the project list to the voters. If you have a lot of fluffy, unnecessary projects, you probably have a substandard offering that will be voted down.

The voters of Fayette County have voted for some SPLOST packages and against others. The difference is ultimately the quality of the project list.

At one point, [Peachtree City] Mayor [Don] Haddix had cited “double taxation” as his rationale for opposing the proposed two-year core infrastructure SPLOST. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to discuss the proposal with Mayor Haddix before his comments were made.

I did have the opportunity to speak with council members Kim Learnard, Eric Imker and George Dienhart (a majority of the City Council) and they indicated they wanted to use their share of the two-year SPLOST for road resurfacing and multi-use paths. There is no “double taxation” issue related to stormwater for Peachtree City.

Mayor Haddix has since quoted my previous negative positions on the ten-year 2009 SPLOST for a very broad range of capital outlay projects, including a county emergency operations center, a speculative university building, fire stations, library renovation, a community center, streetscape projects, parks and improvements, well connections, paying airport authority debt, paying down debt on the county’s justice center as well as roads and bridges.

The list was overly broad and did not focus specifically on essential core infrastructure repairs, justifying, I believe, my negative commentary on the 2009 offering.

Many of the expensive projects in 2009 were not absolutely necessary, especially when the county was in the midst of a severe economic recession. The county commissioners had not even seen their list of road and bridge projects until the evening they voted to move forward with the 2009 SPLOST.

I am also not a big fan of using SPLOST proceeds to pay down bonds as I believe it encourages government authorities to run up debt, hoping to pay it off with a SPLOST later. Consequently, I could not support the 2009 SPLOST.

The difference between the scope, duration and revenue distribution of the failed ten-year 2009 SPLOST and the proposed two-year Core Infrastructure SPLOST is significant.

For example, under the failed 2009 SPLOST, Peachtree City would have received $22 million over TEN years ($2.2 million per year). But under the proposed Core Infrastructure SPLOST, Peachtree City would receive $12,865,604 ($6,432,802 per year) over two years.

The new funding distribution would maximize their revenue for street and multi-use path repair, giving them an excellent value for the maintenance of their essential core infrastructure.

While Mayor Haddix and I will not always agree on every issue, I felt it important to explain the differences between the failed ten-year 2009 SPLOST and the proposed two-year SPLOST for core infrastructure maintenance.

The Transportation Investment Act referendum this past July was a horrible project list, deserving defeat. I believe my criticism was justified and the effort was defeated almost 2 to 1 metro wide. It was a really poor SPLOST attempt.

I do, however, agree with Mayor Haddix’s position on not linking the entrance of two subdivisions to a newly proposed grocery store parking lot and the significant harm another traffic signal on Ga. Highway 54 West will cause.

Steve Brown

Chairman, Fayette County Board of Commissioners

Peachtree City, Ga.