Athens voters have overwhelmingly approved extending a local 1% sales tax for capital projects.
Over three quarters of voters approved SPLOST 2020, which passed with 78.4% of 8,978 ballots cast.
SPLOST 2020 will last an estimated 11 years and fund $314 million worth of projects. Big ticket items include a new judicial center to replace the outdated and overcrowded courthouse, an arena at the Classic Center and redeveloping the aging, dilapidated Bethel Midtown Village affordable housing complex. That's in addition to 34 smaller projects, ranging from crowd-pleasers like park improvements to necessities like equipment for firefighters.
Despite vocal opposition to some projects—particularly the judicial center and the arena—and the regressive nature of sales taxes in general, the margin of victory surpassed past sales tax referendums, which have routinely passed with support in the low 70s.
Proponents argued that SPLOST helps Athens-Clarke County put some of the burden on commuters, tourists and UGA students who don't pay property taxes, and that even if voters were opposed to one or two projects on the list, there was more to like than dislike.
In Watkinsville, Mayor Dave Shearon and challenger Bob Smith appear headed for a recount. Smith, a former Republican state representative who actively courted GOP support in the nonpartisan race, won 402 votes to Shearon's 400. Georgia law allows a recount when the losing candidate is within 1% of the apparent winner.
Incumbent Connie Massey won re-election over opponent Jon Kirkpatrick 400 votes to 354 for Post 2 on the city council. Brian Brodrick won his Post 1 seat unopposed. And 71 percent of voters approved Sunday alcohol sales.
And for Winterville city council, incumbent Mary Quinn was re-elected, and Amanda Mooney won another post. Dodd Ferrelle won re-election as mayor without opposition.
This post has been updated to correct information about the Winterville election.