Letter: A better way on SPLOST

The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) was defeated in Whitfield County. Frankly, I was glad.

I did not vote against the projects offered, I voted against the process offered.

Let's review. Our local officials realized in the spring of last year we were entering the final year of the current SPLOST. They immediately rejected the idea of letting it lapse and began a process to propose another SPLOST to immediately follow the current one.

With the basic decision made, our local officials began the hunt for projects to include in a new SPLOST. So, from the very beginning, it was a tax proposal in search of a reason to be implemented.

By early fall, a list of projects was created and the proposed SPLOST blossomed into a six-year, $100 million, unwieldy monstrosity.

Around July of 2018, I went to a SPLOST public meeting. I made to them one proposal, that they put the SPLOST on a general ballot in November 2018 when 35,000 voters could vote on it instead of a special election in March 2019, where historically around 5,000 citizens would decide the issue.

My one simple point was that when a large tax was proposed, it was their responsibility to see that as many citizens as possible should be heard on the matter.

After watching this process once again, I can only conclude the entire process is broken.

First, there should be a legitimate county-wide need for a SPLOST.

Second, our local officials should not have to go on a hunt for projects to justify a tax. Those projects should be self-evident and self-explanatory.

Third, a SPLOST or Education SPLOST vote should be scheduled on a general election date so that the maximum number of eligible voters can cast a vote on the proposal.

And finally, austerity has been prevalent in our valley since 2008. Only recently has prosperity begun to return. Now is not the time to go on a manufactured spending spree by our local officials. A pause is in order.

My hope is our local officials have heard the message sent yesterday when my lone voice from last summer was joined by a thunderous echo from my neighbors.

There is a better way. Let's take it next time.

Mark Gilstrap


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