The Richmond County Republican Party executive committee urges voters not to renew the 1 percent Special Local Option Sales Tax and to turn down the bond referendum for drainage projects on Tuesday. Why?
SPLOST was designed and passed into law 13 years ago as a source of revenue to be used for roads, bridges and drainage problems without increasing local property taxes. This law was later changed to incorporate other types of projects not dealing with infrastructure for those counties having other needs. Furthermore, the SPLOST law is a tax that can be renewed every five years; but, if the SPLOST fails, it can be voted on again in one year or 2001 with corrections.
Richmond County has serious drainage problems and the Richmond County Republican Party executive committee feels that the intent of the original SPLOST law for use of funds should be followed. However, the majority of the drainage projects were not placed in the current SPLOST list of projects.
This is wrong. The drainage problem needs of the Richmond County citizens should be addressed in the SPLOST projects. They should not have been placed on a list to be funded through general obligation bonds (a $59 million bond referendum). These funds fall squarely on the shoulders and pocketbooks of the property owners in Richmond County. This will be a 1.5 mill tax increase ($52.50 per year per a $100,000 home).
The Richmond County Correctional facility will have to add another jail pod at the county jail in two years because of overcrowding. The Richmond County commissioners are aware of this problem but withdrew this project from the SPLOST list.
This is wrong. When this overcrowding occurs, a federal judge will issue a court order forcing Richmond County to construct a new jail pod to alleviate the overcrowding problem. The cost of the new pod is estimated to be $3.5 million which would be funded by Certificates of Participation. These funds will again fall back onto the shoulders and pocketbooks of the property owners of Richmond County through another tax increase.
Richmond County taxpayers have paid for two studies - a management study and a space study. These studies pointed out a savings of $3.5 million; very little of the savings has been implemented. This is wrong. The savings would have given us the revenue to build the new jail pod or half the construction cost of a new main library.
Even though the 1 percent SPLOST seems to be the fairest form of taxation to all citizens of Richmond County, the county's GOP Party executive committee strongly opposes the current funding of the SPLOST funds. By voting no, we are asking our commissioners to go back to the drawing board and to correct these allocations to the spirit of the original SPLOST law ... When this has been accomplished, the Republican Party here will stand in support of SPLOST in 2001...
Dave Barbee, Augusta
(Editor's note: The author is chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party executive committee.)