Let me come right out up front and say, I support the 1 cent SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax) initiative being voted on right now in Fayette County. Many of my friends might find this surprising. Please allow me to summarize why I support it.
The one cent extra tax makes the sales tax of most items purchased 7% instead of 6%. So, if you made a one dollar purchase, you would pay $1.07 instead of $1.06. This does not seem like much but the power of that one penny is enormous. To wit:
The current SPLOST is THE MOST SUCCESSFUL revenue generator in the history of Peachtree City. It started six years ago when the citizens voted it in. It was to generate a whopping $45 million extra dollars for Peachtree City over six years, which ends in a few months on June 30, 2023.
Let us look at that $45M. It allowed us to repave roads in the city. It allowed us to repave and add new cart paths and bridges. It provided public safety items like a new ambulance and fire engine. It provided funds for standardizing communication equipment between the county and our police and fire departments. It provided upgrades to several parks and recreational initiatives. It paid for the new dam/spillway on Lake Peachtree.
Not only all that, the actual revenue of the current SPLOST is over $55M. That’s $10M more than expected! Yes, Peachtree City got to keep that extra $10M and use it on all the items listed above. Unfortunately, there were cost overruns which our city council decided not to reveal. This is why we need to carefully choose city council members who will be honest and upfront with the citizens. However, in my opinion, the favorable use of the money overwhelmingly outweighs the negative.
The new SPLOST we are voting on right now (through March 17th) is expected to generate over $65M over six years. Recall Peachtree City’s annual budget is “only” about $40M. The SPLOST money is huge and will be used for more infrastructure, maintenance, safety, and recreational items in the future.
Now, if we can only elect city council members who know how to leverage that huge windfall of money from SPLOST with our city millage rate. We need to be lowering not be raising our annual property taxes. There is no excuse for what the city council has done over the last six years of raising property taxes EVERY year when we have a SPLOST that is generating records amount of revenue.
Lowering our millage rate from above 6 mills to perhaps 5.75 will not only give our citizens and businesses a break but it will encourage new businesses with high paying jobs to actually consider setting up shop in Peachtree City. We have the industrial park. Let us put it to better use. When a business sees millage rates in say Alpharetta or Roswell at under 5 mills and sees our rate at over 6 mills, where do you think they will go?
Of course, we need to have a slightly higher millage rate since we have 100 miles of golf cart paths to maintain where they do not. Our wonderful city life can include a business friendly environment with competitive tax rates with just a little bit of financial knowhow. Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, SPLOST will allow us to leverage our city budget to give decent raises (perhaps $5,000+ annually) to our police and fire department rank and file employees that are so desperately needed. SPLOST gives us that opportunity.
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Imker is a former city councilman in Peachtree City.]