The bedrock of good government requires leadership, communication and transparency.
Last week, Newton County commissioners failed to meet these standards in their debate over which projects to include in its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects list.
SPLOST projects are funded with money generated through an additional 1-cent sales tax. SPLOSTs must be approved by county voters in a referendum.
The county has prepared a $57.6 million SPLOST list, but not without controversy.
At the commission meeting last week, there were accusations of collusion and complaints of lack of leadership. Regarding collusion, we feel these officials did not break the law.
But this political infighting is a sideshow that could endanger SPLOST, a funding mechanism that is crucial to helping local government pay down debt and provide infrastructure improvements in a tough economic climate.
We have reviewed the SPLOST recommendations and are encouraged by the debt-reduction measures. However, it doesn't go far enough in removing the county's long-term financial liabilities.
Of greater concern is the inclusion of requests for projects that have received no study and are offered without explanation. Such projects take away from the ability to reduce the long-term liabilities and would impose an additional expense on the general fund.
Projects such as the $1.1 million agricultural facility and the $1.1 listed for District Four improvements need to be removed from the SPLOST.
We ask that Chairwoman Kathy Morgan assert herself in the leadership role that the voters put her in. Morgan needs to work with the commissioners to clarify their suggestions and remove any projects from the list that would entail the commitment of additional money down the road.
SPLOST is not going to please everyone, nor should it. But with good stewardship from our commission, we should attain a politically viable list of projects that will both be acceptable to voters and benefit the county.
It is imperative for voters to pass this SPLOST to reduce our debt burden.
This is a defining moment for the leadership of Newton County. We ask each member of the commission to work together and give us a viable SPLOST.