Cobb SPLOST not perfect, but deserves your vote
by Ron Sifen
August 10, 2014 04:00 AM | 1762 views | 14 14 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Successful efforts by three county commissioners to remove BRT-related component projects from the SPLOST list have greatly enhanced the chances that Cobb voters will approve the SPLOST referendum this November.

Southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid took the lead in asking that the Bus Rapid Transit projects be removed from the projects list. She addressed the issues perfectly. She did a great job of pointing out that Cobb had identified these projects as BRT, and Cobb could not just keep changing their descriptions and explanations every few days. Cobb had an obligation to be credible.

Every time an angry tirade was directed at her, Cupid responded calmly and professionally, stuck to the issues and provided well-reasoned responses under pressure. Many politicians could learn from the example she set.

Cupid, along with east Cobb Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott, did a fantastic job of standing up for the citizens of Cobb County.

After a two-hour battle during the July 22 Board of Commissioners meeting, the BRT component projects were removed and the BOC then approved putting the SPLOST on the ballot for voters to decide on Nov. 4.

Many people have identified additional concerns about this new SPLOST and many of their points are valid. However, some of these are issues beyond this SPLOST and perhaps those need to be issues for another day.

SPLOST is supposed to mean Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. But SPLOST in Cobb has evolved into not-special-purpose. About a decade ago, most of Cobb’s funding for road resurfacing and other transportation needs was moved from the regular budget to the SPLOST. Funding for building maintenance, roof replacements, heating and air conditioning replacements and other items that should be in the regular budget, were also moved to the SPLOST. That’s not special purpose, and SPLOSTs are not supposed to be used for maintenance. But we can’t fix that between now and November.

Cobb County is going to have to take care of all of this maintenance, and there is no money for these items in the current budget. Without the SPLOST, Cobb would have to impose huge property tax increases in order to pay for these items. Does anybody want large property tax increases?

There are plenty of projects on the list that some people oppose, but other people like these same projects. Now is not the time to rehash these projects. If the SPLOST is not approved, all of the necessary projects on this list will not get funded, and all of us will have a huge problem.

One advantage of a six-year SPLOST is that we have six years to make some decisions about future SPLOSTs, future priorities and future alternatives.

Should road maintenance and building maintenance be moved back to the regular budget? Should we dramatically increase property taxes?

Do we want these items to be paid for with a sales tax? If yes, well, SPLOST is a sales tax.

Since road and building maintenance is not a special purpose, should Cobb move to a new permanent HOST sales tax or LOST sales tax? That’s a whole new tax that would have to be approved by the voters.

Cobb has a huge problem with how we compile the SPLOST projects list. Cobb keeps using SPLOSTs like a slush fund. Cobb starts by deciding a SPLOST can raise $750 million in 6 years, and then Cobb tries to figure out what it wants to spend all that money on.

Taxpayers need to let our commissioners know future SPLOSTs should be constructed by deciding what we actually need, and then constructing the SPLOST to raise that amount of money, and stop collecting the SPLOST once that amount of money is raised.

Cobb should approve this SPLOST, but insist that commissioners talk with their constituents about the following:

n How can the commissioners work with our state legislators to get them to approve fractional penny SPLOSTs?

n Cobb needs to plan future SPLOSTs by compiling a list of real needs first, and once we know how much we need, then decide how long the SPLOST will be and how much money will be raised.

n What types of projects should future SPLOSTs be used for?

n How should we pay for road resurfacing, roof replacements, heating and air conditioning replacement and other similar necessities? If we are not going to pay for these necessities with SPLOSTs in the future, what is going to be the source of funds to pay for these necessities?

The SPLOST is far from perfect. We need to fix the SPLOST process in the future.

But let’s all face the reality that we need to approve this SPLOST on Nov. 4.

Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the CCCC.
Comments
(14)
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are you kidding?
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August 14, 2014
This is utter nonsense.

We got into the budget crisis BECAUSE of the SPLOST. Projects from the 2005 and 2010 SPLOST have not been completed.

At what point do we work to reform?

Nonsense.
on balance
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August 11, 2014
SPLOST has become an "expected" prize. Why don't our public officials submit the proper budget to maintain county and schools so the average citizen is aware of "true" costs. Then propose a SPLOST as it was intended for "not needed but wanted" projects. SPLOST has become a candy jar with no top on it for school and county.

I say vote it out so it is no longer taken or granted and then, propose it next year as a wish list.

I have decided to vote against it. I admire and respect Ron's work on this and usually agree with him, but to me, it's not wise to vote for it.

FROM TEXAS
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August 11, 2014
Ron must be drinking the Chamber KOOL-AID he should know better than to support this unbelievable!!!
anonymous
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August 11, 2014
From TEXAS, Ron has explained very well why he supports it. He has made very good points.

If you are OK with the infrastructure ( that should be covered under the regular budget but is not)crumbling or having your property taxes jacked up big, SPLOST may be a good idea.

I notice you did not address any of Ron's points. Gotta wonder how much thought have you really given to this.
CCPD Sgt
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August 10, 2014
Thank you Ron for your dedication and concern over this SPLOST. I am a long-time Cobb County resident and police Sergeant with Cobb Police. I have great concerns with how the SPLOST is projected and then filled with projects that should be in the regular budget. However, this SPLOST is not the one to vote down. This SPLOST is heavily loaded with projects to improve the police department. If county citizens want a strong and competent police force, this SPLOST is a necessity. Although, I believe this SPLOST is bailing out the county manager and the BoC complete mismanagement of the county's public safety agencies, it is an important SPLOST to pass. A vote against this SPLOST is a vote against the men and women who give all to protect you.
anonymous
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August 10, 2014
I generally like Sifen's columns because he is not against everything, but I am shocked that he is supporting the never ending splost. Ron, you need to reconsider this.
anonymous
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August 11, 2014
Did you really read what he said?

His points were very clear. There is a down side to not approving this SPLOST.
SW Gal
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August 10, 2014
This article is very deceptive. It does not mention the fact that the SPLOST has turned into a giant slush fund for politicians and their cronies. It does not mention the fact that Cobb County has made BILLIONS off the SPLOST for the last 20 years for EXCESS that citizens do not want or need. The County did just fine without the SPLOST prior to that time. Many items on the list are not specific enough and include a "yet to be determined" description. Many items on the list are outside the role of county government - Water parks, skate board parks, tearing down perfectly good bridges only to rebuild them just to add a sidewalk, ACRES of unnecessary and unhealthy synthetic turf for all the ball fields. (Tim Lee is a consultant for a synthetic turf company...hmmmm) Vote NO. Take a break from the SPLOST. Force county government to live within its means like the rest of us have to do. That will put at least $200-$700 per family of four back under control of the families who need it more than the politicians and cronies who are spending our money like drunken sailors.
Craig Kootsillas
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August 10, 2014
Ron is WAY wrong. It's time to cut up the SPLOST credit card and stop the practice of adding sweeteners to the SPLOST list to entice small groups of people to support the measure.

Cupid's a Leader
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August 10, 2014
Lisa Cupid is proving to be the best prepared Commissioner on the Board. She studies the issues. She comes with good questions. She has the courage to hold her position in the face of considerable pressure..... and she is ALMOST ALWAYS CORRECT.

Watch this lady. She will likely become Chairman of the Board.
anonymous
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August 11, 2014
Yeah. I am impressed with her, too.

It is really refreshing to have a commissioner that is smart, honest, forthright, articulate and competent...things we just do not often see coming from the ranks of democrats (or rinos, for that matter).

Holden Caulfield
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August 18, 2014
AMEN!
Sensible Conclusion
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August 10, 2014
Sifen reaches a sensible conclusion with a well balanced argument.

Yes, we have a bunch of things to fix. Yes the political system does not listen well. Yes we need the fractional SPLOST, etc.

But from where we are now the only reasonable action is to pass the SPLOST.

And by the way, passage will protect us from another game of "hide the bus in the splost" for six years !

Sifen is an informed and articulate citizen. Wish we had more.
John Galt
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August 17, 2014
The only sensible thing to do is not to vote to tax yourself more.
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