Where are the conservatives?! As a progressive, I am appalled over the 2016 SPLOST. There is something fundamentally wrong about deciding how much to tax and then finding ways to spend it — the cart got ahead of the horse!
In my opinion, the public safety, transportation and library/parks groups all went a bit crazy coming up with enough capital projects to add up to $750 million. This is too much capital expenditure, especially given our need for operational and maintenance funds. If nothing else, the SPLOST should be cut to two or three years.
Ideally, any new tax revenue needs to be available to both capital and operations and maintenance (O&M). This tie to “capital only” will prevent Cobb administrators from spending revenue in the most efficient and prudent manner. When a need is identified, the question should be, “What are the options? Do we buy new, fix the old, some combination of that and do nothing now?” Here are a few examples:
• A new library facility in East Marietta, with a budget of nearly $8.5 million, is to have a theater, art studios, et al — a huge capital expenditure. After the financial crisis of 2008, public library system hours were cut back fairly severely. The library needs to re-expand its hours, not build new facilities.
• A new police training center for $24.5 million is proposed. If portions were built and other parts such as classrooms were rented (I see lots of buildings sitting empty), it would provide money to pay safety employees a fairer wage.
• There is a bridge in my neighborhood on the list to be rebuilt because it isn’t wide enough for 5-foot wide sidewalks. There are four other bridges listed for replacement that were rated well above the 50 point threshold last year. In our financial position, can we afford to tear out structurally sound bridges on new, questionable criteria? Only when you are looking at a glut of “free tax dollars,” such as a $750 million SPLOST, do you consider such things.
• There is about $8 million proposed for roundabouts. They waste land and are very expensive. Just one driver hesitates entering the round and it becomes just another four-way stop.
• The BRT transit proposed at $100 million is still on the list, albeit hidden.
Public transportation is never paid for by the fare box. Is this a way to transport commuters in counties north of Cobb to MARTA? Should Cobb taxpayers pay for it? What future cost will we be obligated to pay?
This is a big stand-alone subject that should not be casually tucked into SPLOST.
We truly need greater tax revenue. While it is true that some of the capital projects are needed, Cobb doesn’t need to be burdened with $750 million in new capital projects — too much, too long.
Frankly, the 2016 SPLOST, as structured, is an insult to both Cobb County taxpayers and to Cobb County employees.