Rockdale County voters will have an opportunity on July 20 to ensure that the county continues to move forward over the course of the next six years.
Voters in the Primary Election will be asked to weigh in on a $75 million SPLOST referendum. The funds would be earmarked to fund capital projects in the county and the city of Conyers.
There's no pretending that there are voters in this community who are dissatisfied with the county's operation under the current administration. Their feelings are not baseless. At times the actions of this Board of Commissioners are more reminiscent of clowns at a circus than thoughtful, elected leaders. It would be tempting to use the SPLOST referendum as an opportunity to rebuke the offending commissioners by voting "no." However, such votes are short-sighted and serve only to hobble the county in its efforts to maintain infrastructure and provide badly needed upgrades to public services.
It should also be noted that SPLOST spending will be monitored by an oversight committee made up of local residents. The use of an oversight committee provides a measure of assurance to taxpayers and has worked well in the past. The nominees were chosen from the current SPLOST oversight committee, volunteer applications received by the county and a list of those individuals who have spoken during public comment time at BOC meetings and work sessions.
In a prudent move, the SPLOST oversight committee was named before the election in order to show residents that the oversight committee and not the county government would do most of the financial management and project recommendations for the proposed 1 percent sales tax program.
In order for any forward-looking projects to get done over the course of the next few years, as we pull ourselves out of the current economic slump, Rockdale County will need funding other than ad valorem tax revenue and HOST revenue. Short of issuing bonds, the only other practical opportunity we have to fund capital projects is with a SPLOST.
And there are no frills in this SPLOST. The funding will go primarily toward road resurfacing, bridges and intersection improvements. Upgrades to the county's Emergency 911 communications center, fire equipment and jail improvements are also part of the proposed SPLOST, along with new water lines and improvements for parks and the senior center. The city of Conyers would use its portion of SPLOST revenue, $10.8 million, for transportation, recreation and green space acquisition and purchase of police cars and other vehicles. SPLOST funds cannot be diverted by county officials for spending on projects other than those specified in the referendum.
And let's not forget that more than 50 percent of the SPLOST is paid by out-of-county residents who come here to spend money. Without a SPLOST on the books, we are leaving money on the table every time an out-of-county resident shops here.
Voting in favor of any tax may be a particularly unappealing prospect in this economic -- and political -- climate in Rockdale County. However, in order to keep the county moving forward, we encourage Rockdale County voters to support the SPLOST referendum on July 20.
The unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Citizen newspapers. Columns, letters to the editor and cartoons reflect the opinions of the individuals who penned them.