With a vote on SPLOST 2020 coming up Tuesday, it's obvious that a lot of folks have questions—and misconceptions—about the sales tax and the projects it will fund. The community group Friends of ACC SPLOST 2020, headed by Shannon Wilder, who chaired the citizens committee that recommended projects, is here to provide some answers.
Will SPLOST increase my property taxes?
While some have feared that SPLOST will raise property taxes, voting “no” to SPLOST is actually more likely to cause an increase. Many of these projects will need to be built by the government of Athens-Clarke County regardless of whether SPLOST passes. If these things are paid for through SPLOST, the money of visitors to our community will help fund the projects. Many basic community needs, such as infrastructure improvements and emergency services repair, cannot be covered by our current tax collections. Because of the negative impact on revenue collection from the recession of 2008, there is not enough money to fund these basics that might otherwise be covered by annual collections. SPLOST gives us the chance to take public input while choosing a set of community restoration and development projects to make up the discrepancy without increasing property taxes.
Is 8% a higher than average tax?
8% sales tax is not unusually high. Neighboring county Oglethorpe shares an 8% sales tax, and some counties in Georgia have sales tax as high as 9%. Therefore, Clarke County’s 8% is within the standard range and provides improvements across the community that other counties don’t receive. This is not a new tax or a tax increase. If SPLOST passes, citizens will continue to pay the current sales tax rate.
How will SPLOST impact local businesses and economic prosperity?
Local businesses will benefit because of SPLOST 2020, which is full of economically advantageous projects. The many parks on the list, Bear Hollow Zoo and the Classic Center Arena, to name a few, will all bring in outside visitors who flood millions of outside dollars into local shops, restaurants and hotels. This in turn means that Athens-Clarke County citizens benefit from all of the money that these tourists spend locally. Affordable housing is a proven economic development tool, while libraries and cultural amenities are significant factors that companies and families compare when considering whether to move to a new community. Additionally, the modernization of government facilities reduces operational costs, thereby saving money to be put back into services. Projects like airport improvements help pave the way for a commercial carrier to serve Athens and increase travel convenience for citizens.
Who will benefit from SPLOST?
All will benefit from SPLOST. Fire and safety equipment are vital to all citizens. Our parks are free to Athenians as well as visitors to our community, and the Athens West Park SPLOST project will increase access to parks and greenspace in this part of the county with limited access. A new library will increase access to Eastside residents. SPLOST will increase pedestrian safety, general safety and open educational avenues to those who currently do not have access. SPLOST is for all.
How do I vote?
To find election day polling locations, look here.
Additional answers to frequently asked questions and information about all the SPLOST 2020 projects can be found at votesplost2020.org.