Taxpayers wisely rejected the special-purpose local option sales tax for Richmond County six months ago, and should do so again now.
The proposal is to spend 57 percent of the $215 million on “infrastructure and facilities.” On a flier distributed by a county commissioner, there are three line items totaling $47.55 million: “Roadway and Drainage Improvement,” “Flood Reduction” and “Grading and Drainage.” You may recall the Augusta Commission in July passed without voter approval the stormwater utility fee, or “rain tax,” for the same purposes. We start paying this in January.
The CSRA was one of only three of the 12 Special Transportation Districts in Georgia to impose upon its taxpayers an additional 1 percent sales tax for transportation infrastructure. We have been paying that since 2013, but the $352 million collected has not been spent.
Recall that our state tax on gasoline went up 7 cents per gallon July 1. That additional tax also is to go for transportation and infrastructure. This is enough tax for roads and rain, and is on top of the recent county property tax increase.
This is being touted as going for infrastructure and physical facilities; however, $6 million is going for “Administration” and “Program Administration” (source: commissioner handout), which is paying for salaries of existing city/county employees. The city administrator has explained that some new SPLOST monies would go to employees involved in these projects. Where are those salaries being reallocated?
From the presentations of the city administrator and a commissioner, one learns that there are still significant amounts of taxpayers’ monies that have not been spent and projects not even begun from the current SPLOST 6. What is needed is a yearly external independent audit and a full and detailed public accounting of all monies and projects approved years ago by the taxpayers. This needs to be known before deciding to be taxed for more.
Clearly there are projects that need supporting, but all on this proposed list do not warrant taxpayers’ approval. The city/county government should account for the previous SPLOST money and projects; reduce the proposed list and requested funding; and resubmit to the taxpayers for reconsideration.
In the meantime, we should vote “no” on SPLOST 7.
Dalton E. Brannen, Ph.D.