The tax will be levied for five years and is expected to raise $773.3 million for the two local districts between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018.
Its passage was anything but a given. The economy remains challenging — tax referendums are a tough sell even when times are good — and anti-tax fever is running at an all-time high here, thanks in part to the work of local tea partiers. In addition, there was growing criticism that elected officials have come to see SPLOST revenue as an entitlement; “easy money,” so to speak. SPLOST referendums seem to come with regularity these days. Others were irked that the schools scheduled the SPLOST referendum as a costly “stand-alone” vote, rather than scheduling it to coincide with a general election or primary. Still others complained that a disproportionate amount of the proceeds from the proposed SPLOST would go to build school gyms and theaters rather than classrooms and the like.
But the pro-SPLOST faction, marching under the banner of the “United 4 Kids,” countered with arguments of their own. The SPLOST had to be scheduled when it was in order to avoid a lapse in tax collections, they said; said that a disproportionate amount of the SPLOST revenue would be paid by commuters and visitors to our county; and warned that if the SPLOST were rejected that a bond referendum would likely follow.
As it is, the Cobb system is debt free, thanks to past SPLOSTs. And passage of Tuesday’s SPLOST will allow them to continue to be debt free, and allow the Marietta system to finally become debt free as well. No more seeing huge chunks of money going into the pockets of bankers and bond lawyers, in other words.
The pro-SPLOST forces had the more persuasive argument, if the poll results are any indication. Fifty-seven percent of the 40,565 votes cast were in favor of continuing the tax. Forty-three percent opposed it.
“My cheeks are a little sore from smiling so much,” said John Loud, co-chair with Jay Cunningham of United 4 Kids, at Tuesday night’s victory party at Willie Rae’s on Marietta Square. “The voters came out today to show their support,” Loud said. “Maybe the project list isn’t 100 percent the best for everybody, but as you look at the picture as a whole, it’s the right direction for the kids, community and economy.”
Indeed it is. And local voters deserve credit for taking that direction.