Cobb legislators should make priority of split-penny SPLOST Law
December 06, 2012 12:00 AM | 2749 views | 5 5 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SPECIAL PURPOSE LOCAL OPTION SALES TAXES, or SPLOSTs, were designed to fund brick-and-mortar “special purposes,” as their name denotes. But what was “special” in days of old has become routine these days, with SPLOSTs being used to help underwrite local governments to a degree almost unimaginable when they were conceived here in the 1980s.

There is nothing “Special” about SPLOSTs any longer. It’s like being served birthday cake with every meal — although it’s probable that they taste more like lobster and champagne to local officials who have come to rely heavily on SPLOST funding.

WITH COUNTY GOVERNMENT SPLOSTS, school board SPLOSTs and last summer’s unsuccessful transportation SPLOST, the public is beginning to suffer from what some have described as “SPLOST fatigue.” It’s a condition that, if left untreated, could easily lead local voters to turn down a future SPLOST or SPLOSTs, regardless of their merits.

One way of lessening that fatigue would be for the state to legalize “fractional,” i.e. “split-penny” SPLOSTs. County governments and school systems each could levy a SPLOST of less than 1 percent under such a proposal. Or, they could join forces to charge a combined 1 percent, i.e., a “shared” SPLOST. The taxpayers would be the winners either way. Rather than school boards and commissions inflating the scope of their SPLOST project lists to match the expected revenue stream, they would be able to downsize their lists to include only what is truly needed, thereby making them smaller, more justifiable and more palatable to voters.

COBB COMMISSION Chairman Tim Lee, Cobb School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and Cobb Chamber President David Connell have already bought into split-penny SPLOSTs, to their credit. Lee reiterated his support at a joint breakfast between commissioners and Cobb legislative leaders last week.

“Our county is getting mature to the point where we’re not going to have to add another courthouse or another jail or some major capital improvement,” he explained. “We’re going to have smaller capital improvement projects. We’re going to have more repair and renewal type of projects, and it’s important that we be able to start at the bottom of our list and let it figure out where it ends, so if it ends up at three quarters of a penny for four years we would like to be able to use that as a tool, as opposed to having to get ourselves forced into a penny increment. We think having the flexibility of putting a list together and having it end up where it needs to be is a stronger way to do that.”

Lee also pointed out that having a split-penny or shared SPLOST capability would help Cobb keep its sales tax lower than those of other metro counties.

SPLIT-PENNY SPLOSTS have generally met with positive feedback from Cobb legislators, but would require an amendment to the state Constitution, which likely is a several-year project.

Representatives of the Georgia School Boards Association and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia tell the MDJ they are unaware of any other counties pushing for the legislation. That’s not surprising, since it’s a fairly new idea and has gotten little media coverage. Yet that’s no reason not to pursue it. Moreover, Cobb is accustomed to taking a leadership role in many state issues.

The issue never apparently made it onto the Legislature’s “radar screen” during last year’s session. But there’s every reason for Cobb’s legislators to make such SPLOST legislation a priority when that body goes back into session early next month.

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James Bell
December 07, 2012
It sound great but it's just another taxing scheme. It's not a penny tax. The tax is a percentage. In this case 1%. If Mr. Lee and other bosses through out Georgia can not present realistic SPLOST projects that are supported by the voters, then they just don't get the tax until they do. They have the ability to limit the taxing period from 1-6 years now. This is a solution looking for a problem.
Kennesaw Resident
December 07, 2012
I will not vote any SPLOST again, and will actively campaign against them. Government needs to get spending under control.
Diamond Jim
December 06, 2012
Fractional SPLOST? I got a better idea. How about

NO SPLOST? Like the Feds, what we have is not a revenue problem, but a spending problem. One totally painless cut that could be quickly made: Do not spend $500,000 of taxpayer money to hold a special "stealth" election for this boondoggle in March, rather than tying it to a regular election cycle. Another great idea for saving: Do not give school teachers and staff members an unauthorized half-day off to go vote themselves more money. Either let them vote when and as the rest of us do, or dock their pay for the time off.
Not a Penny
December 06, 2012
I am so tired of this tax being referred to as a "penny" or any derivative.

That is a clear effort to deceive or obvuscate a tax accruately described as "one percent". There is a huge difference and for journalists and MDJ to perpetuate this political slight of hand is unconscionable.

Let me know where to send my single penny, otherwise my vote is NO to SPLOSTS in perpetuity.
Up, Up, Up
December 06, 2012
I have no intentions of voting for a SPLOST in the foreseeable future. We have been told our utilities are going up, AGAIN, food prices are out of sight, gas is still over $3. Apparently, this group of local bureaucrats, taking a page out of the Obama book, sits around with nothing better to do than to think of more ways to get money from us. I am sick of this attitude. So they need money, well, who doesn't? Just stay out of my pocketbook until the economy is better. I think I read in this paper that is expected to happen in 2025.
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