County BoC reached consensus for 2021 SPLOST and TSPLOST referendums

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Spalding County Board of Commissioners (BoC) has reached a consensus for the dates for two separate upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums.

The SPLOST and TSPLOST referendums were discussed at length during the BoC’s annual retreat held Jan. 25 at the Spalding County Senior Center and was scheduled to be again discussed at tonight’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting.

The first, which will be a specially-designated Transportation SPLOST, is slated for March 2021, and the second would be on a Nov. 2021. The specific dates will be announced.

The discussion regarding the TSPLOST referendum date began with County Manager William Wilson presenting three 2020 dates for commissioners’ consideration – March 24, May 19 and Nov. 3.

It was determined that March was impossible, as there would be insufficient time to compile a project list prior to the requisite dates for public notification.

The remaining two possible dates were considered at length, with May’s date corresponding with the primary and November being a general election.

“We do better when it is a local, special-called election,” said Commissioner Gwen Flowers-Taylor, who later added, “The more people you have to vote, the more people you’ll have to vote no.”

Commissioner Don Hawbaker recalled the last November SPLOST referendum held in 2014, which he pointed out “failed miserably,” while remarking that the 2015 SPLOST referendum passed by a two-to-one margin of approximately 3,000 to 2,000 votes.

He attributed that margin to the community members who had proposed projects for that referendum.

“The project people were out really pushing their projects,” Hawbaker said.

Long a TSPLOST proponent, Hawbaker said he believes such a referendum may pass.

“I think there’s enough people that will see that we’re just going to have to bite the bullet, if they’re properly educated,” he said.

He later offered his support for a November referendum date.

“I know we’re likely to draw more no votes in November, but at least we won’t be accused of trying to slide it in,” Hawbaker said.

Flowers-Taylor expressed concern for how the referendums may be received in light of incomplete projects from the 2016 SPLOST referendum.

We need to be able to give direction on how the county will finish those 2016 projects, she stated.

“This is an infrastructure SPLOST to keep your county from falling apart,” said Commissioner James Dutton, in whose opinion that will help sell the referendum to voters.

“The people in this county who have made the SPLSOT fail in the past are the conservative Republicans,” stated Flowers-Taylor, who added that no one should assume a “conservative project” will draw yes votes from those who usually vote no.

Wilson advised the commissioners that staff was recommending a November referendum, and that to do so would require them to, “…hit the ground Monday.”

Flowers-Taylor said she preferred to go with the “highest and best change to pass it.” As far as the separate types of referendums are concerned, she said. “The people don’t know the difference in E and T.”

Wilson feels the proposed referendums will be aided by visual aids.

“A picture means a thousand words in this community,” he said of the before and after shots of completed SPLOST projects.

Commissioner Rita Johnson said she believes in order for another SPLOST referendum to pass, they must focus on completing outstanding 2016 projects.

She feels they will not “get the votes” until the community sees they are completing what was previously promised.

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