The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VII (SPLOST) was defeated by a slim margin Tuesday.
Voters turned against the nearly 20-year-old penny sales tax by a vote of 18,864 to 17,923, or 51.28 percent to 48.72 percent.
The defeat came as a surprise to Mayor John Gayle but not to Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk, who said he warned the mayors of the five municipalities that if they continued to argue over LOST, the local option sales tax, that voters would turn against SPLOST in retaliation.
“I told them at the beginning if they didn’t stop arguing over a few percent of the LOST and refused to leave the numbers as is by taking the county’s offer, that taxpayers were going to turn against the SPLOST,” said Paulk.
“Voters are disenchanted with the way their local governments have gotten greedy and they’re tired of the arguments over money. They voted SPLOST down because they don’t trust us with their tax dollars, and it’s a real shame.”
Paulk said he is also sad to see the amount of money the county and cities are having to spend in legal fees on the LOST issue, which will be decided in arbitration in March 2013.
Gayle said he was worried about putting SPLOST on the presidential election ballot due to the larger number of voters.
“There are a number of people who don’t seem to understand what SPLOST is,” said Gayle. “We didn’t do a very good job of selling it.”
The list of improvements that would have been made if SPLOST passed included a new municipal auditorium and library at Five Points, and a number of infrastructure improvements on roads, water and sewer systems.
“The people have spoken and we’ll have to get by,” said Gayle. “The Five Points projects can be put off, but the big infrastructure projects are a big problem. Some things like the sewer system can’t be put off, so we’ll have to look at other sources of revenue. We’ll have to see how things go.”
The current SPLOST VI collections continue through next year and won’t end until Dec. 31, 2013. SPLOST VII would have allowed the tax to continue uninterrupted until 2019.