OPINION — To understand a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST vote, you must first determine why elected officials would ask citizens to vote to impose a tax on themselves and their neighbors?
Raising taxes or imposing a tax is widely unpopular. To avoid all that ugly bad press for themselves, elected officials decided years ago to shift the blame to the electorate by making them vote on a tax referendum.
Our current SPLOST expires soon. To continue it, they need you to vote again.
To that end, each municipality and county prepares a list that reads like your best childhood Christmas list. It exceeds your wildest expectations. Who doesn’t want something on that list?
Asking you to vote might sound democratic, but we’re a Constitutional Republic. We use a democratic process to elect officials into office so they make the tough decisions to run the government within specific budget constraints. They get their municipal, county and state funding through taxation. We want them to run an efficient, yet lean, government using the taxes we provide.
They have no money unless they take it from you. It’s your money.
When they lack money they raise your taxes or impose a new tax. If they vote, it becomes public information which could harm them in their next election. We’ve seen officials get voted out of office for raising or imposing new taxes.
To avoid that risk, our elected officials put the tax on the ballot as a “referendum” which protects them from blame. If it passes, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault your taxes went up. If it fails, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault that you won’t get all the new projects and goodies on the list. Forcing you to vote to impose this tax is a “Win/Win” for elected officials.
But, they want all that additional money, so they use your tax dollars to make fancy, high-tech presentations with lots of photos to convince you it will be a windfall of “free” things. But if it’s your tax dollars, it’s not free. You are paying. And you will pay a lot more than just a penny.
They won’t tell you all the facts, just the ones that benefit them, and hide the rest. They use scare tactics, like, “We can’t afford to fully fund our police, fire and EMS departments without SPLOST.” Really?
The Revolutionary War was fought over taxation without representation. Our elected officials purposely schedule this election on a ballot by itself, in a March election, knowing a low number of voters will participate (perhaps just 10% of voters). That small group of voters get to anonymously vote “yes” or “no” to impose a tax on 100% of the people. It’s classic taxation without representation, you don’t even know who to address your letter to to complain.
How do we protest it? If we follow our colonial forefathers’ example, we look for the nearest harbor and throw the King’s tea overboard.
We can use Lake Peachtree, but where do we find the crates full of pickleballs?
The Mayor did a last minute bait and switch when she added one of her personal favorites to your Christmas list. Or was that her attempt to get the pickleball enthusiasts to be motivated enough to show up and vote “yes” so it passes? Perhaps.
Pickleball may be less than 1% of Peachtree City’s total list, but my guess is it’s on there for a reason — to get votes.
Maybe you should vote, but be careful how you vote.
[Suzanne Brown is retired after 21 years in federal law enforcement, has a BS from Cornell and an MS from Colorado State, and has lived in Peachtree City for 3 years. She often speaks at local government meetings during public comment time, pointing out various laws and regulations that need to be followed to preserve our communities, and in support of a patriotic agenda.]