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Tomorrow D-Day for SPLOST, ELOST Vote in Walton County

If measure doesn't pass, sales tax will fall to 5 percent in 2013, but county will be short of funds for things like jail expansion, new schools.

As the deadline approaches for tomorrow’s election on the Special Local Option Sales Tax and Education Local Option Sales Tax in Walton County, officials have tried to make sure everybody understands its importance. In the current anti-tax environment, there is real fear that it won’t be extended in 2013, which is what a “no” vote would mean.

At Friday’s TRIAD meeting in Loganville, District 2 Commissioner Chuck Bagley gave seniors in attendance an overview of the vote and what it means.

“This is not a new tax,” Bagley said. “It is a continuation of the SPLOST that ends Dec. 31, 2012. What you’re voting for would be for it to start again in January 2013.”

Bagley went on to explain that one of the key uses for funds raised through the new SPLOST would be for an expansion of the jail. The current sales tax in Walton County is 7 percent. Of that, 4 percent goes to the state, 1 percent to Walton County, the remaining 2 percent is 1 percent SLOST and 1 percent ELOST. If the referendum doesn’t pass, the sales tax would return to 5 percent at the end of 2012, but funding for the projects would have to be found elsewhere.

Former mayor and current Loganville city council candidate Mike Jones spoke out at the meeting, saying he believed the ELOST for seniors was actually a “back door tax” because they are exempt from education dollars on their property taxes. Bagley went on to counter that, telling seniors a loss of education dollars would likely have an impact on them.

“If we don’t get this, we won’t be able to improve our schools and we will just have to continue with business as usual,” Bagley said. “There will be no economic development – when schools go down – property values go down. Property taxes will be raised and the millage rate will go up. And on SPLOST, we need that jail. Our population has gone from 60,000 to 83, 000 and as that growth comes, so do criminals.”

Bagley said if money is collected in sales tax, anyone purchasing in Walton County contributes toward the tax collected. He the county needs the jail and would have to get it somehow. Officials had just approved a payment to Barrow County to continue to house Walton County’s criminals in its jail due to overcrowding in the Walton County jail.

The SPLOST and ELOST items are the only two items on the ballot in Walton County for tomorrow’s vote.

The following is the wording of each issue on the ballot.

  • Shall a special one percent sales and use tax be imposed in the special district consisting of Walton County for a period of time not to exceed 24 calendar quarters and for the raising of an estimated amount of $60,000,000 for the purpose of funding the following projects: (i) for the City of Monroe, (A) transportation, drainage and sidewalks, (B) public safety improvements, and (C) solid waste improvements; (ii) for the City of Loganville (A) water and sewer infrastructure projects, and (B) transportation improvement projects; (iii) for the City of Social Circle (A) roads, sidewalks and drainage improvements, (B) improvements and expansion of libraries, (C) water and sewer expansions and improvements, (D) public safety improvements including station and equipment, and (E) recreation and playground improvements and expansion; (iv) for the City of Good Hope (A) public safety projects, (B) parks and recreation expansions and improvements, (C) municipal facilities repair and upgrades, and (D) transportation and signage projects; (v) for the City of Walnut Grove (A) wastewater treatment facility and infrastructure, and (B) construction and improvements to roads, streets, sidewalks, drainage, and public parking; (vi) for the City of Jersey (A) water and sewer infrastructure expansions and improvements, (B) improvements and expansions to transportation, roads, streets and bridges; (vii) for the City of Between (A) construction of a new town hall and community building; and (viii) for the County (A) improvements, expansions and construction of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, signage and other transportation projects, (B) parks and recreation improvements and expansions, (C) construction and equipping of a 911 Center expansion, (D) acquisition, construction and equipping of two fire stations, (E) acquisition, construction and equipping of government building expansions, upgrades and improvements, (F) acquisition, construction and equipping of a new jail or jail expansion and (G) water and sewer expansions and improvements.
  • Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education Ballot Question. Shall a one percent (1%) sales and use tax for educational purposes continue to be imposed, levied and collected in Walton County, Georgia by Walton County School District and the City of Social Circle School District for a period of time not to exceed five years (20 calendar quarters), beginning immediately upon the expiration of the one percent sales and use tax for educational purposes which was continued by a majority of the voters of Walton County, Georgia in September 2007, and for the raising of not more than $56,575,000, for the purpose in Walton County School District of providing funds to pay the costs of acquiring, constructing and equipping a new elementary school and a new middle school; acquiring land for future school sites; acquiring, constructing and equipping renovation of and improvements to Carver Middle School; acquiring, constructing and equipping classroom additions at Youth Middle School; clearing and paving additional space for bus parking area; acquiring buses; acquiring hard copy and electronic textbooks; acquiring and installing computers, tablets, and related technology and equipment, technology infrastructure and other technology upgrades (including, without limitation, distribution of tablets to certain students, faculty and staff); development of new physical education/athletic facilities (including, without limitation, relocating a baseball complex from its existing site, which the Walton County School District expects to sell); adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, furnishing and equipping existing educational, administrative and physical education/athletic buildings, properties and facilities of the Walton County School District (including, without limitation, water conservation projects); and paying expenses incident thereto; and for the purpose in the City of Social Circle School District of providing funds to pay the costs of acquiring, constructing and equipping a new elementary school; acquiring, constructing and equipping a physical education/athletic complex; acquiring buses; acquiring textbooks; safety and security equipment and infrastructure; technology equipment and infrastructure; financing a portion of the cost of a regional facility for special needs students; adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, furnishing and equipping existing athletic/physical education facilities and other existing educational buildings, properties and facilities of the City of Social Circle School District, and paying expenses incident thereto. If the imposition of the tax is approved by the voters of Walton County, Georgia, such vote shall also constitute approval of the issuance of general obligation debt of Walton County School District in the aggregate principal amount of $10,000,000 for the above purposes.
Roger Hale November 08, 2011 at 04:47 AM
VOTE NO! Make the BOC and BOE live within a budget like everyone else is having to do in these tough economic times. Educators and politicians seem to think that the taxpaying public should just keep handing over money for projects they want and not necessarily projects that the taxpayers need. I thought we just expanded the jail a few years back. If it needs it again, maybe we need to look at why we need more room and address that issue instead of just expanding the jail. Maybe Sheriff Joe has become an empire builder like the BOC and BOE. Also, how much of our taxpayer dollars are going to handle illegals in Walton County; education, court costs, medical care, etc. etc. Again, what do we need versus what do we want...tough economic times are for needs only.
Renee November 08, 2011 at 05:24 AM
Roger, I am an educator. I have earned from our greatful government and society a pay cut for the past FOUR YEARS. I can barely pay my bills. Also, educators in Walton County have not been given over about $150 to replenish the materials needed to teach in years. And, next year they are talking about taking the county suppliment (up to 6,000) away from us on top of the furloughs. So, tell me why the teachers should continue suffering??? We are getting fed up of the lack of support and respect for our occupation!!!!
Sherry Lambert November 08, 2011 at 02:09 PM
VOTE YES!!! Walton County has done alot of good things with the SPLOST and ELOST monies...they haven't wasted as other counties have. This is NOT a NEW tax just an extension of the 1% we already pay on the things we buy. A no vote will raise your property taxes for sure.
Jeffrey Allen November 09, 2011 at 01:53 AM
If you read the ELOST, you will find that there is a long list of projects on it, none of which will affect the salaries or support teachers, so voting "no" will not cause massive layoffs as some have suggested. As the spouse of a teacher, I looked very carefully at the list of projects and the amount of money we as taxpayers would be committing to for a long time. There is only one project I found worth supporting (construction of a new middle school to replace the aging LMS). The rest is fluff, nice to have in a strong economy, my concern is what happens if we commit to bonding that much money ( a whopping 56 Million bucks) and only raise half or 3/4ths? Now your paying sales tax AND your property tax goes up to make up for the overage. The general SPLOST is pretty much the same situaion, one or two worthwhile projects mired in a bunch of fluff. If they had tried to raise a quarter of the funds, earmarked it for a new middle school ONLY(ELOST) and a couple fire stations ONLY(SPLOST) I could have supported it. rejecting an extention of this tax is not thumbing your eye at teachers or public safety. It just reminds those in charge that a local option sales tax is not intended for business as usual but to fund special projects, needed projects, not swing sets and parking lots. Vote no, give 'em a year to figure that out and let's try a less porked up one next year.

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