Lee eyes SPLOST extension: Chairman mentions Nov. for possible referendum
by Jon Gillooly
February 26, 2014 04:00 AM | 2521 views | 8 8 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
'If we have an opportunity to do it in November and there is consensus to do it in November, it makes sense to have it when we’re already spending the $500,000 for general elections as opposed to another half a million,' said County Chairman Tim Lee. <br>Staff/File
'If we have an opportunity to do it in November and there is consensus to do it in November, it makes sense to have it when we’re already spending the $500,000 for general elections as opposed to another half a million,' said County Chairman Tim Lee.
Staff/File
slideshow
MARIETTA — County Chairman Tim Lee is eyeing November to hold a referendum asking voters to extend the county’s 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax, which expires Dec. 31, 2015.

If county commissioners want to extend the tax for another four years so collections remain uninterrupted, then November would be the last opportunity to hold a referendum during a general election. An alternative is to schedule a special election sometime next year, Lee said Tuesday during a commission work session.

A special election could take place in 2015, but that would cost the county an extra $500,000, something Lee said he doesn’t favor.

“If we have an opportunity to do it in November and there is consensus to do it in November, it makes sense to have it when we’re already spending the $500,000 for general elections as opposed to another half a million,” Lee said.

The county’s existing four-year SPLOST, approved by voters in March 2011, is expected to collect $492 million.

During that 2011 referendum there were 390,930 registered Cobb County voters. Yet only 21,552 voted yes and 21,462 voted no, passing the tax by a mere 90 votes. Turnout was a paltry 11 percent of registered voters.

The 2011 SPLOST was focused on updating existing infrastructure instead of new construction.

Lee said commissioners will learn at an April retreat what items a future SPLOST may fund.

“At the retreat, we are going to learn that we still have an incredible need for our capital maintenance plan, and we’re going to look at options as to how to fund that,” Lee said. “The special purpose local option sales tax is the most efficient and effective way of paying for these capital, pay-as-you-go, cash-in-hand projects, and it looks as if we’ll probably have to consider that sooner than later.”

Over the next 60 days Lee said the county will work in concert with Cobb’s six cities to determine what the projects may be as well as the potential length of the SPLOST, Lee said.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who is up for re-election this year, said after the meeting this was the first she’d heard about extending the tax.

Birrell said she opposed holding a future SPLOST referendum during a special election whatever was decided.

As for whether she believes extending the special tax is needed, that is a decision for voters, she said.

“I don’t take a stance one way or the other,” Birrell said. “I’ve seen a lot of good things that have come out of the SPLOST like DOT projects but there again we’ve had SPLOST for many years and there’s a lot of folks that feel that it’s time to give it a rest and there’s others that see the benefit so it’s up to the people to decide. I don’t take a stance personally.”

Lee is not shy about where he stands.

“My preference is to utilize a seamless SPLOST to meet the needs of our capital improvement,” Lee said.

Comments
(8)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
give it a vote
|
February 26, 2014
It should be up to voters to decide on SPLOST, not a bunch of negative posters here. If you oppose it fine, but don't criticize Lee for giving me the right to vote on it. And yes it should be held in November when most people vote.
anonymous
|
February 26, 2014
Has this man ever met a tax that he does not endorse?
Diamond Jim
|
February 26, 2014
Finally, Chairman Lee has a proposal that actually makes sense! It is just silly and irresponsible to schedule a special election, at a cost of a half-million taxpayer dollars, for a SPLOST when it could be included in a November election already scheduled. Being part of a general election will also ensure greater voter participation in the the final decision, and a much better representation of the actual wishes of the taxpayers.

In the past,SPLOST votes have been held almost exclusively as special "stealth" elections, providing pro-tax special interest groups, most of whom are well organized and well funded, a much greater chance of success by suppressing voter turnout. As a practical matter, many voters were not even aware the elections were being held!

My fond hope has been that the state legislature would pass a measure REQUIRING counties to attach SPLOST votes to general elections.
Diamond Jim
|
February 26, 2014
Finally, Chairman Lee has a proposal that makes sense! It is just silly and irresponsible to schedule a special election at a cost of a half million dollars to the taxpayers when the SPLOST could be included in an election already scheduled for November. Including it with a general election would also ensure a much larger voter turnout, resulting in a more equitable decision representing a broader swath of taxpayers.

In the past these special elections have been scheduled specifically BECAUSE fewer voters turned out (indeed, many residents were not even aware the elections were being held!) These "stealth" elections afforded tax-increase partisans, who were usually well organized and well-funded,a better chance of success by by

suppressing the opposition vote. My fond hope has been that the State Legislature would pass into law a measure that REQUIRES counties to hold SPLOST votes in conjunction with general elections.
just wait
|
February 26, 2014
I the Board does not use a majority of the tax money for police, I will not support it.
Vote NO
|
February 26, 2014
I guess this is how the county plans on funding the Braves moving to Cobb. No matter what Timmy says tax payers will be funding this.

VOTE NO TO EXTENDING SPLOST.
Watcher...
|
February 26, 2014
Give SPLOST a rest!

Never, ever again have a Special Election for SPLOST.
Joseph Pond
|
February 26, 2014
The Chairman has never met a tax he did not like-

Unlike Commissioner Birrell, I have a stance: I would like to see the County concentrate on its core functions, and operate within its budget, so there does not need to be SPLOSTs.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides