SALES TAX REFERENDUM
Richmond County voters will decide Tuesday whether to pass Phase IV of the special purpose local option sales tax, which would fund $130 million in projects approved by the Board of Education.
WHAT PROPONENTS ARE SAYING
• You have been paying a 1-cent sales tax for school capital projects since 1997. This would just be a continuation of that tax.
• It’s not just about construction. The sales tax money buys technology for all Richmond County schools. It also pays to repair and buy buses and help with transportation costs.
• Everyone pays. Because it’s a sales tax, people who don’t pay property tax or income taxes still contribute to the sales tax when they make purchases. That is also true for people who don’t live in Richmond County but shop here.
• It would improve schools. Benton Starks, the county school system’s facilities director, said his department would have no other way to build buildings and pay for renovations to schools without the tax.
“If the SPLOST doesn’t pass, schools as we know it would change drastically,” Starks said. “That’s what’s been keeping us afloat all these years.”
• The tax controls maintenance costs at schools. The tax money pays to replace and repair roofs and HVAC units. Without the tax, the facilities department would run out of money in its budget for repairs. The money would most likely have to come out of the district’s general fund, which pays for operating expenses such as teacher salaries.
WHAT OPPONENTS ARE SAYING
A tax is a tax. The sales tax adds 1 cent to all purchases. Richmond County Republican Committee Chairman Bob Finnegan said there is a section of residents who “are tired of being 1-cented to death.” In the summer, they will vote on another 1-cent tax, the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, which funds transportation projects and roads.
“Nobody wants to deny the schools anything they absolutely positively need, but then again, they have a significant budget,” Finnegan said. “To turn around and ask for more when they’re cutting jobs – I can see why some would be against that.”