Worth every penny

Special purpose local option sales tax deserves your vote May 20

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Its official name on the May 20 ballot is the Augusta-Richmond County Special Purpose Local Option Sales and Use Tax.

Most everyone just calls it SPLOST.

And you need to vote for it.

If it passes, more than $198 million will fund dozens of projects to make Richmond County better than ever.

Failing to pass SPLOST VII would be nothing less than slamming the door on golden opportunities.

There are two heavy economic hitters in this tax package: the Mills District – composed of the historic King and Sibley textile mill properties – and the growing Georgia Regents University Cancer Center. Under SPLOST, the mills would get $5.25 million, and the cancer center $8 million.

Both numbers represent crucial investments. The mills allocation would fund the groundwork for a city
proposal that would connect the downtown medical district with a distinctive Augusta Canal historic property ripe with possibility – residences, classrooms, offices. It would prime the area with a surge of development and vitality.

The cancer center allocation would spur the Medical College of Georgia’s efforts to bring a much-coveted National Cancer Institute designation to Augusta. The effect of that would be immense. Research money would come to Augusta, and with it the professionals to perform that research. And their families. And they’ll need places to live and
shop.

To put it into perspective: The University of Kansas Cancer Center won NCI designation in 2006. The result? By 2016, cancer center leaders there estimate “the number of jobs created will reach 2,241 and the regional economic impact of NCI investments will total $1.93 billion.”

Does Augusta have that potential? We’ll answer that question with another question: Who has the better-known medical community – Augusta, Ga., or Lawrence, Kan.? The NCI economic-impact numbers we have heard for Augusta have fallen firmly in that billion-dollar ballpark.

Anyone who has ever grumped about the quality of life in Augusta has no excuse to oppose SPLOST.

Do you oppose eyesore properties? There’s $4 million in there for demolitions.

Do you oppose flooding and poor drainage? There’s $2.5 million in there for the flood reduction program.

Do you think emergency coverage is inadequate? The sheriff’s office and fire department would get nearly $9 million for improvements.

Have you complained about the lack of things to do around here? The tax package generously includes $19 million in funding allocations to improve parks and recreation facilities countywide. And there’s money to enhance the wonderful missions of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, the Augusta Symphony, the Augusta Museum of History, the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy and the Imperial Theatre.

Let’s talk a bit more about that. One of the knocks against SPLOST is that it’s supposedly illegal to allocate public money to nonpublic agencies. Opponents cite the gratuities clause in the Georgia Constitution.

We’ll cite that clause, too, verbatim, and the emphasis is ours: “The General Assembly shall not authorize any county, municipality or other political subdivision of this state, through taxation, contribution or otherwise, to appropriate money for or to lend its credit to any person or to any nonpublic corporation or association except for purely charitable purposes.”

The SPLOST allocations to cultural agencies are “purely charitable.”

The Georgia Municipal Association seems to agree. An August 2012 Legal Report from the GMA spells out precisely the types of projects you can target for SPLOST funding. There are a lot.
One type is “a capital outlay project consisting of a cultural, recreational or historic facility, or a facility for some combination of these purposes.”

The report mentions nothing forbidding SPLOST funding from going toward charities or nonprofits. If it were illegal, why haven’t we seen a torrent of legal challenges?

No, SPLOST is not packed with so-called “pet projects.” The selection of outside agencies for consideration under the tax plan took place after more than a year of completely public, out-in-the-open discussions with several local charities.

And before you think local nonprofits are being showered with a ton of free money, bear in mind that each agency has to come up with 25 percent in matching funds. If they can’t pony up the 25 percent, they don’t see a penny of this penny tax.

Here’s another canard: Since SPLOSTs, by law, can’t overlap, the proposed SPLOST VII is illegal because collections on SPLOST VI still would be collected when VII went into effect.

That’s simply not true. SPLOST VII is legally considered an extension of the previous SPLOST, so there is no overlap.

SPLOST opponents also would have you think that the May 20 proposal doesn’t include enough infrastructure spending.

Not enough? Does anyone remember the 2012 transportation SPLOST – $841 million for the Augusta region alone? Throw in the attendant federal funds and you’re talking about more than $1 billion of construction over the next decade.

One of the best features of the TSPLOST is that it gives conventional SPLOST packages the flexibility to concentrate on a broader spectrum of quality-of-life projects.

And in the end, isn’t it what this is all about? Our quality of life?

And isn’t a better quality of life worth a penny?

You couldn’t make a better investment if you spent 10 lifetimes playing the stock market.

Please vote “yes” for SPLOST VII on May 20. It will be good for all of us, in many ways.

Comments (45) Add comment
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Riverman1
84110
Points
Riverman1 05/14/14 - 01:05 am
12
2
Penny Loafers

That penny tax is a sizable expense for the average family. $198 million is being taken out of the private sector by this tax. Don’t think that doesn’t have a negative effect on the local economy.

The mills allocation represents well the problem with the SPLOST. We were never told what was planned for the area. Finally, bits and piece came out as the public demanded to know where $5.2 million was going. Still, we are not privilege to the accounting of the organization getting the money, Deke’s ARC. We don’t know what Deke’s buddy, Matt Kwatinetz, is being paid. I call people like him living off the SPLOST, penny loafers.

There are real questions whether GRU wants to build anything on the mills property. It could all be as out to lunch as the jazz café the ARC also wants. But if there is a possibility and the concept appears viable, why doesn’t the county do what needs to be done? The Commission can direct what department and who does the work and where the money goes. Isn’t that what government is for?

avidreader
3222
Points
avidreader 05/14/14 - 05:34 am
14
2
Two Points of View!

I am OPPOSED to this tax. I feel that our local government is not savvy enough or intelligent enough to use this money responsibly -- no matter what this editorial attempts to convey.

However, if we do not spread the penny throughout the county, to EVERY citizen (or non-citizen) who purchases goods and services, then the taxpayers (property owners and responsible business persons) will end up footing the tab because much of the projected income is already spent. The county is going to get their pennies one way or another or their bond ratings will suffer immensely.

To rehash a cliche', we're caught between the rock and the hard place.

Still, I will vote NO. And this is coming from a fiscal conservative with no personal agenda.

Riverman1
84110
Points
Riverman1 05/14/14 - 06:33 am
13
2
Why Not A Ten Cents SPLOST?

The Chronicle has gone absolutely giddy over this TAX. They say it’s going to make Augusta a much better place with symphony music wafting through the air while cancer is cured. The hysterical nonsensical promotion of the tax reminds me of those who want to raise the minimum wage saying it won’t hurt business.

If the SPLOST did what the Chronicle believes it will do without a negative effect on the private economy, why not double it? Imagine having $400 million. Triple it because it doesn’t hurt business…right? How about make it 10 cents on the dollar? That would mean two BILLION a year. Pretty soon everyone in Laney Walker could be given a mansion and the Marriott would have a city owned Disney World attached.

But let’s get back to the real world. The fact is the SPLOST makes everyone paying it poorer. It gives families less to spend on their needs determined by them as their money is taken to finance one project after another. Chronicle, remember having the lampshade on your head when you wrote this? Sober up.

Bodhisattva
6217
Points
Bodhisattva 05/14/14 - 06:51 am
4
15
Progressive taxes-BAD!

Progressive taxes-BAD! Regressive taxes-GOOD! Shift the tax burden to to those least able to pay. That's what the GOP wants to do for the entire nation.

story1
802
Points
story1 05/14/14 - 07:18 am
10
2
Take our blindfold off.

Most folks support Splost for city infrastructure. But our Mayor put a blindfold on the entire community when pushing this one through. Most of the non profits scheduled to receive money in Splost VII have received money in past Splosts. Why can't they go out and work to raise the needed dollars? Must Vote NO on Splost VII.

story1
802
Points
story1 05/14/14 - 07:19 am
9
2
Vote No

Just Vote No.

gaflyboy
4849
Points
gaflyboy 05/14/14 - 07:52 am
14
2
Vote no!

Do people realize that this will push sales tax here to 9%!

Most people don't realize that only 4% is Georgia state tax. The rest people voted onto themselves.

The US economy contracted during the first quarter this year. People are hurting; Small businesses are hurting; but Government acts as though everything is fine and none of that is of any concern to them. Charity is great ... for those who can afford it. Sorry ACES, you're wrong on this one.

dichotomy
33017
Points
dichotomy 05/14/14 - 08:14 am
10
2
The simple fact that the

The simple fact that the Chronicle deems it is legal to hand out taxpayer funds to PRIVATE organizations picked by the local rich, influential folks is reason enough alone to reject this SPLOST. There is NOTHING charitable here. We are simply funding the rich folks interests. They are not giving money to battered women's shelters or homeless veterans.....they are giving our money to bridge tagging "artists" and the symphony. Nothing against the symphony, but it's not something the average South Augusta taxpayer attends and if the taxpayers wanted to be "charitable" there are a lot more deserving charities around. And I think the bridge tagging "artists" are hideous. There is a big difference between giving money to charity and funding the rich folks hobbies and entertainment.

deestafford
27721
Points
deestafford 05/14/14 - 08:15 am
9
2
Just because something is legal does not make it right...

Just because something is legal does not make it right. It appears that this version of the SPLOST was done without adequate light of day given to it. It was rushed without adequate public input/discussion.

It also appears to be too much going to private institutions and organizations as well as projects that are fuzzy without concrete plans.

I think most of us would support a SPLOST which has the main purpose of being for infrastructure improvement rather than going into a general fund/slush fund bucket. It just appears that this is some bacon in this one and not what we have been willing to support with some of the highest taxes in Georgia.

dsterling9
832
Points
dsterling9 05/14/14 - 08:16 am
8
2
VOTING NO AGAIN

Voted no on the previous SPLOST and will vote no on this one and any future SPLOST until the list is cut to remove those special interest, privately owned business/items. I appreciate the explanations; however, the listing of agencies wanting FREE money is just too long and wrong.

Lori Davis
924
Points
Lori Davis 05/14/14 - 08:32 am
12
2
Let's see, how could the AC

Let's see, how could the AC endorse HBA who is against SPLOST and then be for SPLOST. Doesn't make sense. What makes sense is that all of this was arranged to expose Helen, since Hardie has always been the candidate the AC has wanted, and guess what? Hardie is for SPLOST! Brilliantly sick AC. By the way, I am supporting Alvin Mason. He is the most qualified candidate. If Hardie is elected and SPLOST passes, those of us who are left in Richmond County are in real trouble.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/14/14 - 08:37 am
9
3
I agree Lori

Brilliantly sick AC

THAT was a geat post...some need to read & understand what is really happening here.

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/14 - 08:39 am
10
2
Charity

The ACES justified giving tax money to private special interest groups by quoting the gratuities clause from the Georgia Constitution:

“The General Assembly shall not authorize any county, municipality or other political subdivision of this state, through taxation, contribution or otherwise, to appropriate money for or to lend its credit to any person or to any nonpublic corporation or association except for purely charitable purposes.”

Well, I'm sorry ACES, but Paine College is not a charity. Augusta Symphony (or SOA, as they like to call themselves today) is not a charity. Imperial Theater is not a charity. Augusta Mini-Theater is not a charity (I understand that Augusta Mini-Theater may not be included in the proposed SPLOST VII list, but they have been included in a previous list). The list goes on and on.

These and the other organizations which have been SPLOST money recipients in the past may be registered with the IRS as non-for-profit organizations, but that designation is much, much wider than the designation “purely charitable.”

It is not right for governments to take tax money and give it to private organizations.

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/14 - 08:43 am
11
2
Mills

Riverman has done us a great service by exposing the folly of the so-called "Mills Project." It involves the city using SPLOST money to purchase land currently in private hands, and then developing the property for something that Grooo does not really want.

This is not what our city government should be doing.

Voting NO! on the basis of the Mills Project alone is justifiable.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/14/14 - 08:51 am
10
3
Back to the drawing board AC

You are out to lunch on this!

harley_52
23424
Points
harley_52 05/14/14 - 09:06 am
1
13
If You Own Property In ARC.....

....you'd better support the SPLOST. The ARC government will raise money either via the SPLOST, or via property taxes.

One thing for sure is that the government is going to spend money. Whether you enjoy funding it via skyrocketing property taxes, or would rather have Masters patrons, renters in ARC, and all the many visitors to ARC help you pay the cost of these SPLOST items is the matter that should help your decision.

As for me.....I'm voting "YES" on the SPLOST.

Excellent Editorial, once again.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 05/14/14 - 09:22 am
7
1
Queued for Moderation
Unpublished

Seems like every time I try to comment on a post I get this same message and it never appears. What's the deal? But I will give it a try anyway. Anyone find it odd that the Chronicle endorsed an anti-SPLOST candidate for Mayor on Sunday and then today endorses SPLOST enthusiastically? Also in a previous editorial, The ACES criticized the Mills Project getting anymore tax money until GRU gave a definite commitment to the project. So far they have not given that and few details are known about this project and what properties the money will be used for. So why all of a sudden has The ACES had this tidal change of view on The Mills project? Now they are using it as a bullet point of why SPLOST should be approved. Quite a change from a couple of months ago. This is nothing more than land speculation with taxpayer money. Vote No.

itsanotherday1
43297
Points
itsanotherday1 05/14/14 - 09:37 am
9
0
Harley

I don't have a dog in this fight, so have reserved comment. But I have to ask you, as a fellow fiscal conservative, how can you swallow the proposal for money going to the private concerns? Politics is the art of compromise, but I don't understand them giving money to private entities when so much is needed for municipal infrastructure.

Also, I don't believe it is all or nothing with regard to "pass it or face property tax increase." If I'm reading the ARC citizens correctly, the general opposition is not about the "penny", but how it is spent. It sounds like if they sent them back to the drawing board and stripped out the "gifts", people would vote FOR it.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/14/14 - 09:44 am
8
2
IAD--I agree with you

It is the fluff in the plan that keeps it in the no vote....this is a splost in Gwinnett county...most voted for the thing & so did I...

http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/static/departments/boc/pdf/SPLOSTfactsheet...

harley_52
23424
Points
harley_52 05/14/14 - 09:49 am
1
11
"how can you swallow the proposal...

....for money going to the private concerns?"

I don't agree that it is. It's a matter of law. The expenditures either conform, or they don't. If they don't, I don't believe they'd be identified as projects since I'm sure the project list has had legal review. The Editorial discusses this issue (which I agree could be bothersome) but cites the GMA review saying the items are okay.

I'm not a fan of big government spending. But, if it's going to happen, I'd prefer the costs be spread around to all of those who benefit from it, not just ARC property owners, though I can see why these non-ARC property owners might oppose the SPLOST so vigorously.

harley_52
23424
Points
harley_52 05/14/14 - 09:54 am
1
12
For The Record...

I am not the least bit concerned for the opinions of non-ARC property owners on the SPLOST issue because it's not difficult to see why they don't want to chip in for ARC community improvement projects.

They'd rather pith and moan about how horrible is ARC and enjoy the benefits for free.

harley_52
23424
Points
harley_52 05/14/14 - 09:59 am
7
3
"Let's see, how could the AC....

....endorse HBA who is against SPLOST and then be for SPLOST."

My guess is that they believe she's the best candidate, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I think that's the way we all should vote. Making voting decisions based on single issues is dangerous business.

As for the last minute revelations about her old debts.....I agree it's pretty fishy. I heard Austin Rhodes discuss it and how he and the AC were both sent some anonymous info which WGAC released "accidentally."

It sounds pretty wormy, doesn't it?

gaflyboy
4849
Points
gaflyboy 05/14/14 - 12:51 pm
12
1
Gee harley_52

I'm disappointed. You're right about sales tax vs property tax, but that argument doesn't seem to qualify as to why this SPLOST is a good idea.

Your pic says "Don't tread on me", but your post this time says "go ahead".

dichotomy
33017
Points
dichotomy 05/14/14 - 10:32 am
9
0
"If You Own Property In

"If You Own Property In ARC.........you'd better support the SPLOST. The ARC government will raise money either via the SPLOST, or via property taxes."

Yeh that is the one they always use to threaten us with on these SPLOST packages. I say vote NO on SPLOST and then hold a good old countywide tar and feather and ride them all out of town on a rail if they even talk about raising taxes. It's time to call their bluff. If they raise our property taxes they will NEVER get another SPLOST approved. Force them to do the right thing and TAKE THE PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING PAINE, AND THE MILLS PROJECT OUT OF THIS SPLOST.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 05/14/14 - 10:49 am
1
9
SPLOST

The CSRA will never reach it's full potential until the double standards end.. The majority of people will vote yes, because the alternative is even worse.. The new mayor and commissioners will spend the next few years creating another splost package and the growth related to the Cyber Command will become a burden instead of improvement...

The TSPLOST is pumping millions of dollars into our community for new infrastructure and multiple splost projects should focus on the quality of life developments.

The thousands of new residents coming here(Cyber Command) can't spend all their time driving on new roads.. They don't want to stay in the house all day and would love to visit the Imperial, Miller theater, water/recreation park in Hephzibah, Diamond Lakes, etc..

New infrastructure is desperately needed across the county, but many areas need additional improvements.. The older parts of South Augusta, East Augusta, Harrisburg, etc need more than new roads if you want to see major changes..

Does anybody believe the Regency Mall area will begin attracting tons of new businesses if the city paved the section of Deans Bridge/Gordon Hwy nearby?

Or do you believe the Regency Mall area will begin attracting tons of new businesses if the city built something in/around the property(recreation area, lake, government building, Augusta Tech expansion, etc)?

The Board of Regents want GRU to build 600 dorms by 2016 and create 1,000 by 2018.. The GGHF site downtown can't support all of the new housing... The Mills campus was included in the Master plan and the results will be made available to the public in the near future.

Darby
25701
Points
Darby 05/14/14 - 11:19 am
8
1
What would ANY article

be without he gratuitous "hate the GOP" blurb from Bod?

Thanks for being so reliable.

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/14 - 11:18 am
7
0
Dorms

In the first place, if the Board of Regents wants Grooo to build dorms, that's their business. And it will be Board of Regents dollars that do it. The city should not make any more "donations" to Grooo. Grooo is flush with cash and the city is cash strapped.

Anyway, the dorms are more needed for the Summerville campus rather than the Frog Hollow campus. Medical students are typically older and rent private apartments or homes.

Darby
25701
Points
Darby 05/14/14 - 11:22 am
8
0
"Most everyone just calls it SPLOST.

And you need to vote for it."

.
No, I don't need to vote for it. As a matter of fact, I've ALREADY VOTED AGAINST IT!

If I could, I'd go back to the polls and vote against it AGAIN!

If passed, the money will be frittered away as it always is. The road to Hades being paved with good intentions, as we all know.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 05/14/14 - 11:36 am
7
0
Hypocrisy at its finest
Unpublished

Kind of interesting that a newspaper that claims to be for fiscal conservative principles is consistently cheerleading these SPLOST taxes that are full of dubious pork barrel projects.

Sweet son
10415
Points
Sweet son 05/14/14 - 12:00 pm
7
0
SPLOST: Yes and No!

No: Arts, Mills, Paine and Bethlehem

YES: Cancer Center, Infrastructure (with limits), Purchase complete radio system for the entire city and not just the sheriff. This gets rid of thousands a month for rented radios. Technology in programming will allow each department to have their own talk channels without having to compete with others.

I have a relative being treated for Ovarian cancer at the current treatment center and she says more room is needed. Just make sure patient care doesn't lose out to research labs which are always needed. Notice my avatar!!

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