Local citizens and political candidates gathered this past Saturday to discuss the upcoming Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax vote during a meeting of the Rockdale County Think Tank.
If the opposition voiced during the meeting represents the opinions of a majority of local voters, the one percent tax will not be supported when Rockdale County voters head to the polls on July 31.
Not one of the nearly 30 citizens in attendance voiced support of the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST), but several people spoke against the tax.
DeKalb resident Viola Davis was invited to present information regarding the TSPLOST, which she vehemently opposes. Davis is also the founder of the "Unhappy Taxpayers & Voters" citizen coalition, an organization that focuses on accountability, transparency and ethics in government.
"Sometimes it's not that you don't have enough money, sometimes it is because you aren't spending it where you need to," Davis said Saturday while explaining her opposition largely centers on the lack of a plan on who will govern the funds. She feels the tax increase will unfairly target the middle class and the poor by increasing the food tax by one percent. She also opposes the tax because MARTA will not receive any funding for operations or maintenance.
Rockdale County Commission Chairman candidate Brian Jenkins has been very vocal about his opposition to the TSPLOST over the last week when he participated in a candidate form held by the League of Women Voters and the think tank meeting Saturday. Jenkins said Rockdale County would generate $136.7 million if the TSPLOST passes but only $98.2 will return here for local projects.
"This is a Ponzi scheme - we need to send a message collectively in Rockdale County that we don't want this," he said. "We need to vote this thing down."
Rockdale County Transportation Director Miguel Valentine was on hand to provide background information on how the TSPLOST plan was devised as well as how the county will benefit from the tax.
"We have to appeal to common sense, a sense of some regional approach to things," Valentine said during the meeting. "If you limit your thinking to what Rockdale can do for itself, we can do pretty good. There is no question about that. We do that now. The local SPLOST does wonders for us. We have needs we won't be able to meet for years but we can handle a lot of our local needs ourselves. Where we need some help with doing the heavy lifting is with larger-ticket projects because it would take an entire SPLOST to deliver one of those projects. You have to decide for yourself whether it makes sense as part of a regional process."
While Valentine did not express what his vote will be, Congressional District Four candidate Courtney Dillard did by saying he opposes the tax due to what he sees as a lack of planning prior to the referendum being put before voters.
"The dilemma is because there is not a comprehensive plan, we don't really know what projects are important and of those projects, which are going to be priority," Dillard said. "There is so much disparity between what the citizens need in terms of projects that are problematic in the community that we feel might really need attention and where the TSPLOST is. The difference between night and day. Just because they are on the list ... really what it means is we don't know if they will even happen in our lifetime."
Among the other candidates in attendance were Tax Commissioner Dan Ray, Board of Commissioners Post I hopeful Tom Harrison and District 92 candidate Doreen Carter.