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SPLOST cost questions
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Dear Sirs: March 15, and the vote for or against the Newton County Special Purpose Local options sales tax, or SPLOST, are just days away.

Be at the polls or be sorry. Tax supporters have voted or will. Thus, a non-vote is "yes" that adds a 1-percent shakedown to almost every item bought.

That’s not the half of it. The betting is that legislators are about to extend the state’s 4-percent sales tax to food. Despite much information in local newspapers, little or nothing is known about the total cost of the new county SPLOST projects.

Board of Commissioners members Mort Fleming, J. C. Henderson and Tim Fleming, who chose the projects, offer not a mumbling word about those hidden costs.

The same goes for the committee appointed to tell us of SPLOST’s many glories.

Don’t voters deserve at least rough estimates of the new staffing, operation and maintenance expenses that this $57.6 million SPLOST would add to the county budget, new M/O charges that could ride the taxpayer’s back for years to come.

How much, for example, would the Historic Jail cost to maintain and operate once the $1.2 million had been spent to complete its renovation?

What would be the new salary costs on the county’s parks budget for a $1.5 million Miracle Field for handicapped kids and J. C. Henderson’s new parks and potters field cemetery in Henderson’s District Four?

Even the apparently off-and-on operation of a $1.1 million cow palace, site and locale unknown, sponsored by Ewing would required a staffer to run it and someone to patch the roof when it leaked.

These and other projects of no great pressing need could be dropped or delayed, and that includes the millions promised the county municipalities to buy their backing for SPLOST.

Certainly an enlargement of Newton Medical Center’s emergency room is a necessity. But at $4 million?

If there’s no other way to cover dire necessities, raise property taxes.

The local press has reported that a property levy would add less annually to local homeowners’ tax bills than the SPLOST, not to mention those of the jobless, the homeless and the poor.

How much "debt service" — a fancy name for interest payments — will be stuffed into the county budget for project costs that can’t be met even from the additional revenue from SLOST?

Some $8 million from a new SPLOST would go for 2005 SPLOST projects.

These issues can only be resolved by a "no" vote.

Let Commissioners go back to work and cobble together a new, more modest list that can be put before taxpayers in a referendum a year from now, as the SPLOST law allows.


Claude Sitton