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SPLOST will help retire county debt
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Our 2011 SPLOST referendum will be voted on Tuesday.

It is only a continuation of the 1 percent tax we’ve levied on ourselves since 1985 that has provided funds for a number of critically needed and award-winning projects in this community.

Think about our water supply provided by Lake Varner, Turner Lake Park that regularly hosts regional sports competitions, the well-used and popular Newton County Library, an award-winning Judicial Center and the restoration of our historically valuable county courthouse.

The continuation of SPLOST is projected to bring in $57.6 million over the next six years, with 34 percent of that to be paid by shoppers and visitors to our county. That’s not a bad deal, in my book.

Some $8.5 million of that sum is slated to pay down principal and interest owed on bonds sold by the county several years ago to fund construction of the county administration building and an expansion of the jail and a low-interest state loan to increase the county landfill capacity.

Each project was a critical need, and with the county’s long-standing excellent bond rating, we were able to sell bonds at interest rates ranging from 1.3 percent to 5 percent.

Many counties and communities are envious of a bond rating that allows Newton County to keep its interest costs that low.

On June 30 when the 2005 SPLOST expires, the county will owe a little more than $13 million in principle with interest of $4.11 million on the administration building and jail expansion. The county is also paying back the $4 million state loan.

We must continue to make our principal and interest payments in a timely manner or risk losing our coveted bond rating. That would make anything the county must bond in the future significantly more expensive. We don’t want to get into that situation.

None of the projects proposed in the 2011 SPLOST list will be bonded. All funds must be in hand before any work will proceed.

Without the funds the 2011 SPLOST will bring in, the county will be hard-pressed to make its annual principal and interest payments.

If it does not pass, we will be jeopardizing our future. Visitors to our county and municipalities will pay almost $2.9 million of that $8.5 million. Just think of the hundreds of tourists coming here to visit scenes of their favorites movies or television programs. Think of the hundreds of room nights booked by film crews, the local catering, equipment rental, props and building supplies that are being bought and paid for locally. Filming and tourism are two of the hottest activities around here these days. These visitors will help us pay our debts, if we vote to let them.

Paying our principal and interest is not a choice; it’s a mandatory obligation that must be met.

When we incur debt personally, we don’t have a choice unless we are prepared for dire consequences.

This is where we live, work and raise our families. We’ve all benefitted from the county projects on which we owe payments.

Please vote for the 2011 SPLOST to keep us moving forward and out of debt.


Sam B. Hay III is an Oxford resident who is a SPLOST advocate.He is a former banker and currently a real estate developer in Newton County.