As most of you likely know by now, I have been putting a lot of effort into getting the 2017 SPLOST to pass – writing articles, appearing on radio and Facebook live, as well as probably giving an earful to anyone who makes the mistake of getting close enough for me to regale them with everything SPLOST.
You may be wondering, “Why is this so important to this guy?” In fact, it’s a question I’ve asked myself, so I will try to explain my answer. I challenge you as you read this, to consider whether it’s important to you and if so, why that is. If not, I hope by the time you finish reading it will be important to you and that you will support it on Tuesday, March 21st.
The 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is important to me because my family has lived here a very long time; it continues to live here, and I plan for it to live here for many years to come. My kids were born here, and I think it's a terrific place to raise a family. Does it have its challenges? Of course it does, just like every other town in America! But this is not just any other town in America. This is my town; it’s my home. One takes care of his home, right? I have an idea of what I want Covington and Newton County to be like. I want to see it prosper safely and do well. I naturally hope everyone else who lives here wants those same things.
You may have heard that this SPLOST has something in it for everyone. That is a great way to characterize it. In fact, 86% of the total anticipated collection over five years, which comes to almost $56 million, IS quite literally for everyone. Transportation, which means improvement and construction of roads and bridges, is being allotted about $18.3 million. With a 2 to 1 match from the state, that turns into about $55 million for our roads. Without the SPLOST money, that becomes about $1 million a year, which might as well be $0 when talking about major paving projects. Speaking of major paving projects, an employee of our transportation department recently told me that we won’t see another one, unless and until a SPLOST is passed. Everyone in Newton County uses the roads of Newton County.
There is $10.4 million in debt reduction/elimination in the 2017 SPLOST list. Being able to make debt payments is critical to the financial health of the county. Being able to pay off debt helps stabilize the county’s general (operating fund), potentially allowing money to be accumulated for contingencies, avoiding taking short term loans, or staffing fully our county departments that have been negatively affected by the 30% in budget cuts Newton County has made since 2008. When county services are cut, it affects everyone in the county.
There is $3.7 million to help replace an out of date and unreliable E911 communications system. If there is any chance our public safety personnel cannot communicate with one another, it puts lives at risk. Which lives? Those of the public safety personnel for sure. Whose family could be at risk? Well, we don’t know, but it could be, you guessed it, anybody. It should go without saying that in 2017, no life in our home of Newton County should be at risk because of something that can be easily remedied, if it were only funded.
This SPLOST also keeps our existing recreation facilities and libraries safe and up to date. It expands existing trails. These projects are important to families living here as well as companies and their employees who are considering moving here. It also contains a youth outreach center to give our at risk children a productive outlet. It contains money to renovate and expand a robust senior center. Our seniors, once kids themselves, grew up, raised children, became grandparents, and made our community what it is today. I could go on, but I only get so much space and hopefully I’ve made my point. What’s in SPLOST for YOUR family?