More than 30 years ago, the Georgia General Assembly provided local governments a funding mechanism, the special projects local option sales tax (SPLOST). Tapping the power of the penny, citizens in nearly every county in Georgia have approved SPLOSTs to fund projects ranging from basic infrastructure to visionary, impactful projects.
One of the advantages of the SPLOST is transparency. The project list is created through public input. Once the list is drafted and the length of time set, the public has additional opportunities to weigh in at City Council and finally the County Commission meetings. The citizens then have the final say by voting on the referendum.
Fayette County’s project list is predominantly basic infrastructure with road paving and maintenance at the top of the list. Stormwater infrastructure improvements, safety equipment and multi-use path maintenance and expansion also make up a large portion of the project list. Additionally, the funds collected through the SPLOST can only be used for the projects the voters approved.
So why do we need a SPLOST, particularly when so much of it is maintenance? Why wasn’t this already addressed? Our elected officials have worked hard to keep property taxes in check in Fayette County and we appreciate that.
However, while the revenue from property tax has improved since the Great Recession, it is not at its pre-recession levels. In 2016, Fayette County property tax generated $135.6 million. In 2009, property tax generated $157.2 million. In 2013, property tax collections fell to a low of $119.9 million. Local governments often defer maintenance and capital improvement projects in economic downturns and Fayette County is no different.
SPLOST funds can be used for matches to bring in federal road funds without impacting general operations budgets. This means Fayette Countians can get more benefit from our taxes paid to the federal government.
Yes, it is a tax increase. But unless you only shop in Fayette County, it is a sales tax we all pay every time we shop in our neighboring counties … except it helps our neighboring counties, not Fayette.
And let’s not forget, those shopping in Fayette that live elsewhere will be helping us with our projects when they shop here. The sales tax is projected to bring in about $23.5 million a year over its six-year life.
Early voting for the SPLOST started Monday and will run through March 17. Election Day is March 21. Please vote yes for Fayette!
[Carlotta Ungaro is president and CEO of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, located in Fayetteville. The Chamber represents almost 800 member businesses and organizations and strives “to promote business and enhance economic and community development through leadership, service and advocacy for Fayette County.”]