Valdosta Daily Times

September 15, 2013

SPLOST committee gears up for election

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In preparation for the Nov. 5 general election, the citizens committee assisting the governments in campaigning for the passage of the seventh Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, is working to get the message out.

Committee Chairman Suzan Prince and James McGahee have been meeting with a number of civic leaders and organizations in recent weeks and are preparing for an information session for citizens on Friday. Both are strong supporters of the referendum and continuing the tax, which will bring $150,000,000 to Lowndes County and the five muncipalities of Valdosta, Remerton, Lake Park, Hahira, and Dasher over six years — one penny at a time.

Although voters did not approve the SPLOST resolution in 2012, Prince said this year everything’s different.

“Since the last referendum, local governments have gone back to the drawing board, evaluated local infrastructure, public safety needs and facility conditions to put together a ‘back to basics’ SPLOST list that more accurately reflects the challenges our community is facing with regards to improvements required to ensure our community continues to move forward,” she said.

McGahee added, “I look at SPLOST VII as an investment in our community, not a tax on our community. SPLOST is not a new tax — it has been in effect for 20 years and has contributed significantly to the growth of our community.”

He said one thing voters need to keep in mind is that the project lists for this SPLOST contain necessities.

“The projects to be voted on, for the most part, have to be done even if SPLOST is voted down. Most likely bonds would be utilized and the interest on the 20-year bonds would substantially drive up the costs,” he said.

 At more than $55 million, the largest single project included on the SPLOST ballot is the city’s wastewater treatment plant relocation and repairs to the current infrastructure.

With Valdosta receiving 53 percent of the proceeds, that still leaves around $25 million for other city projects.

Lowndes County will receive nearly 42 percent, or $62 million; Hahira will receive $3.7 million; Remerton, $1.5 million; Dasher, $1.2 million and Lake Park, $1 million.

 McGahee said that the extra penny currently being paid helps fund only local projects, and is a consumption tax.

“SPLOST tax, unlike income tax, is not applied to your gross income. It applies to purchases that the taxpayer makes and not all purchases are taxable. On average, consumption spending equals about 30 percent of a taxpayer’s gross income. For example, a taxpayer with $45,000 of gross income has only about $13,500 in consumption spending. That yields 1 percent of $13,500 or $135 per year for SPLOST tax. In return, the taxpayer is getting roads, bridges, public-safety facilities and services, judicial facilities, recreation facilities, and most importantly, water and sewer infrastructure.”

Since voters turned down the referendum in 2012, Lowndes County had to request a special waiver from the Georgia Department of Revenue. Otherwise, the tax collections would have ceased on Jan. 1, 2014 even if the referendum passes this year. In order for there to not be an interruption in the sales tax collections, the Department of Revenue waived the waiting period following the election.

If the referendum fails in November, the one cent sales tax will stop Jan.1, 2014 and it will be another year before it can be placed on a ballot again.

For Prince, SPLOST collections are the smartest way for the community to grow and prosper.

“I believe that communities do not stand still. They are either moving forward or sliding backwards. My hope is that as local citizens we can continue to move forward, planning for positive growth so that future generations will want to remain here and raise their families in the community that I love.”

Prince wants to encourage all voters to become more educated regarding SPLOST.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20, an informational meeting will be held at the Valdosta City Hall Annex, 300 N. Lee St.

“I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about SPLOST, and/or becoming a part of SPLOST VII Steering Committee to attend,” she said.