* Erroneously claim that previous SPLOSTs provided many amenities and those amenities are the reason why Cobb is a nice place to live. Furthermore, without more taxes and government spending for more amenities, Cobb will become a bad place to live. I do not agree that our quality of life depends on big government tax and spend projects to "luxurify" Cobb County.
* Erroneously claim that 98.5 percent of Cobb's roads are dependent upon the 2011 SPLOST, and without the SPLOST Cobb County would allow our current roads to deteriorate. This is not true. What would be true is that Cobb has included in the SPLOST 98.5 percent of its projected capital improvements, excluding maintenance, which by state law cannot be put into the SPLOST. It is not true that failure of the SPLOST would result in Cobb County just simply allowing our roads to deteriorate, or not doing maintenance which is already included in the normal budget.
* Erroneously claim that previous SPLOSTs caused millage rate decreases. Again, this is not true. During the debate, we were shown a chart where there was a 15-year period of steady substantial millage rate declines. During half of that period, Cobb had no SPLOST, yet the millage rate continued to decline every year without the SPLOST. The millage declines occurred because Cobb was experiencing very rapid growth and development at that time. When growth slowed, the millage rate leveled off, and stopped declining.
Other tax-and-spend justifications for the SPLOST were also just plain wrong.
Does the SPLOST list contain some necessities? Yes. If this were a request for a half-cent tax for 3 years to raise $150 million just for absolute necessities, I would be supporting such a proposal. However, I do not support $492 million in taxes for less than $200 million in necessities, and more than $300 million in tax-and-spend for non-necessities.
Cobb County already has ball fields with scoreboards. Are some of these scoreboards more than 20 years old? Yes, but replacing a scoreboard because it is 20 years old is not a necessity. We are still in a pretty difficult economy. The unemployment rate in Cobb is still above 9 percent. Foreclosures are at record highs. Home values are not yet recovering. 2011 is the wrong time for tax-and-spend "luxurification."
And contrary to what is being claimed by tax-and-spend SPLOST proponents, I think the SPLOST, as proposed, will actually cause additional future tax increases.
Many of these new amenities and luxurification projects will require future ongoing expenditures for operations and maintenance. If Cobb already can't pay for its necessities, then it is irresponsible to add new future operating and maintenance costs to future budgets for new amenities and other non-necessities. The SPLOST will literally dig us into an even deeper hole for the future.
Cobb will not protect its AAA bond rating by burdening future budgets with unnecessary additional new expenses, with no room in the budget to pay for these extra expenses.
Cobb cannot ignore the results of the November 2010 election. Washington and the State of Georgia will be slashing spending for at least the next couple of years. Cobb County needs to recognize, and responsibly deal with the financial realities of 2011-13, and plan how to meet our necessities. 2011 is the wrong time to initiate new non-necessities whose operating and maintenance costs will have to be added to future budgets.
If the Cobb SPLOST fails, commissioners will have to construct a list of real, absolute necessities, that absolutely have to be done in the next few years, and then figure out how to fund that.
The merits of a SPLOST depend on the merits of the whole projects list. Cobb's proposed SPLOST projects list is inconsistent with the financial realities of 2011.
At the public hearing last October, I pointed out that the SPLOST was ill-conceived, because it decided on a dollar amount to be raised, and then tried to figure out how to spend all of that money. I recommended starting over by identifying just the absolute necessities that needed to be done over the next several years, and then figure out what would be the best way to pay for it, whether SPLOST or something else.
Now, it is the responsibility of Cobb voters to send the commissioners back to the drawing board. A vote against the SPLOST will force the commissioners to come up with a responsible plan for taking care of Cobb's necessities. It is your responsibility to vote on March 15.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is former president of the Vinings Homeowners Association and former president of the Cobb Civic Coalition.