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County SPLOST Proposal – Unacceptable

I have been asked to share my thoughts on the proposed SPLOST list. In its current form, the proposed SPLOST list is unacceptable to me. To sum up why:

  • The county’s current proposed SPLOST project list is filled with “wants” while shortchanging “needs”.
  • Less than 50% of the SPLOST list is focused on the original intent of the legislation – funding road paving and infrastructure repairs.
  • The current SPLOST list proposes to use almost 10% of all SPLOST collections to fund a new, large government center complex.

Here’s how your sales tax in DeKalb is currently assessed:

DeKalb Sales Tax is 7%. Here’s the breakdown:

4% is a State of Georgia sales tax
1% is an Education SPLOST that goes to the DeKalb school district
1% is a tax that goes to MARTA
1% is a HOST (80% goes to property tax relief / 20% goes to infrastructure funding)
7% Sales Tax in DeKalb

So – why is there a proposal to add another penny?

The 2014 DeKalb County Operations Task Force recommended that our DeKalb County Legislative Delegation pass a bill allowing for the county to call a referendum to correct a growing inequity in the distribution of the HOST tax proceeds. Increasingly, due to the way the funding formula works, the majority of that 20% for infrastructure was going to cities. The county struggled with the loss of these funds and road maintenance suffered. The motivation behind the legislation (HB 215) that allows for the SPLOST referendum was:

  1. To give even more property tax relief to homeowners (convert the HOST property tax penny to 100% property tax relief) and,
  2. To create more infrastructure funding by adding another penny sales tax – all subject to the approval of voters in a countywide referendum.

Why I oppose the current SPLOST proposal:

In theory I favor replacing property tax with sales tax. I am also sympathetic to the unfortunate skew in HOST fund distribution. I am strongly in agreement with the motivation of legislators to help fund a robust road paving program. Sadly, as the county prepares the referendum question for the ballot, the proposed list of SPLOST projects has grown to include pet projects and monuments to government bureaucracy. This includes new parks, libraries, and an exceedingly large new government center – a Taj Mahal monument to ineffective government.

In addition to mission creep in the SPLOST list, important and defensible public safety improvements receive less funding than needed. Our police and fire departments both need new training facilities, yet SPLOST only proposes to fund 40% of this need. Fire Stations located within the city limits of any city have been removed no matter their current state of disrepair. Keep in mind, most fire stations within city limits serve areas that include multiple jurisdictions including multiple cities and unincorporated DeKalb. You should also note that you pay fire service tax to the county to protect life and property even as the county refuses to build or rebuild stations that are necessary to protect you.

I hope that elected officials in the county, the cities, and our legislature won’t be distracted by or focused on “wants” but rather “needs” as they evaluate the SPLOST proposal. I hope that our partners in city government won’t support a county referendum that provides them a new source of tax dollars for their city while burdening DeKalb’s taxpayers in all of the county, including cities, with a project as wasteful as a new government center. I hope that all elected officials will understand the county must focus on repairing the broken infrastructure that everyone must endure instead of adding more capital (Government Centers, parks, libraries, etc.) to an inventory of assets that are already poorly maintained.

We can consider a SPLOST that is serious about paving roads and addressing public safety. We must adhere to the original rationale for this proposal – paving and repairing roads and infrastructure. I will not support a SPLOST, raising your taxes, to fund pork barrel spending of any sort.

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Pirnie says:

    I totally support your position. The latest 1% school tax was passed with only 13% of the registered voters participating. What the county needs to do before using more of our tax money is to eliminate waste and unnecessary costs in our county government.

  2. […] DeKalb County COmmissioner Nancy Jester calls the SPLOST “unacceptable.” […]

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