Five mayors and several county managers gathered around a table Tuesday and asked for one item.
There were not five different voices; there was just one, united front in a negotiation with the county about how much of the potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax should be allocated the county’s municipalities.
The county negotiated back, and the two sides appeared to settle somewhere in the middle. But that wasn’t the real take-away.
If voters elect to pass the SPLOST vote when it comes on the ballot on March 14, 2017, we would assume that the money raised from 2017 through 2022 will benefit the community — the entire community, residents of unincorporated Newton County and the cities.
From what we’ve been hearing — including a sentiment brought up during Tuesday’s SPLOST work session — confidence in the SPLOST being passed is not currently high.
We see Tuesday’s meeting as a step toward a little more faith in those who choose how our tax money is spent.
There was no name-calling as negotiations took place, there were no political games played. There were two sides of a debate.
The county wants to use the money for roads, district-specific projects and debt reduction. The municipalities want to help their infrastructure, improve their citizen’s way of life and continue to expand on some of the things such as trails in Mansfield, the Square in Covington and commerce based on the Yellow River in Porterdale.
If done correctly, all of these projects could help out the entire community.
It was that a thought that was reiterated by many of the mayors, city managers, commissioners and the county chair Tuesday night, a thought that garnered a little more faith in the local governing bodies’ decision making.
Another bright spot from Tuesday was the fact that a group of elected officials showed how working together can equal good things.
In presenting a united front, the mayors were able to demonstrate a united show of confidence and raise the amount of money each will be allocated from this potential SPLOST.
They had an idea of what they wanted and a specific number in hand before they walked into the meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. This came after a series of meetings between the five mayors and the city managers.
That communication is key. Each city may not want the exact same thing for its citizens, but they know that each resident of Newton County is vital to their city’s success.
Meetings between the mayors are not something that is new. They meet and communicate at least once a quarter and have been doing so for years. Many also gather together as part of the board of directors of the group Newton County Tomorrow. The communication between the leaders of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Mansfield and Newborn allows for each of them to learn more about the growth and the troubles of each corner of the county.
The benefit of that communication was on full display this week.
Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry spoke up first, Porterdale Arline Chapman championed her city and Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston backed up his fellow mayors as they worked to benefit the community.
And the community stands to benefit.
Not only from the fact that the cities will be allotted a little more of the SPLOST money, but also from the example of communication.
Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims both inquired about the mayors’ meetings. The mayors answered by extending an invitation open to the entire commission. County Manager Lloyd Kerr also was invited to meetings between city managers.
If the invitations are accepted, more constructive, problem-solving communication will take place between our community’s elected officials.
That indeed, would be a win. A win for Newton County residents.