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There's more on the ballot than just candidates

Gainesville among others with key referendums Tuesday

POSTED: November 1, 2009 12:47 a.m.

While candidates for city office are the main reason for holding Tuesday’s municipal elections in many local towns, several cities also face referendums on a slate of issues.

The key vote in Gainesville is on a nonbinding referendum to determine if residents want to change the city’s form of government for direct election of a mayor and school board chairman.

City Council members are elected citywide to represent each of five wards, and members choose a mayor among themselves, generally on a rotating basis.

The school board chairman is chosen by the five board members.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, a Gainesville Republican, passed a bill last spring that created the nonbinding referendum.

"We’re only in the infant stages, but the people I run into favor a mayor running for mayor," Rogers said.

If a majority of residents vote in favor of such a plan, state legislators from the area then will decide whether to make changes to the city’s current legislative structure by changing the city charter. City and state officials then likely will determine whether to change the size or nature of electing the council and how to define the role of an elected mayor.

The General Assembly must approve any change, to be approved by the governor.

Rogers also has said that if turnout for the election is too low, the referendum could reappear on the ballot next year along with a fuller slate of countywide and statewide races.

Other ballot questions in the area on Tuesday include:

Residents in the Habersham County town of Clarkesville will vote on allowing liquor by the drink sales within the city.

Dawson County voters will have the opportunity to extend a current 1-cent sales tax for the county school system for the next five years. If approved, the money raised can be used for several new construction and districtwide improvements, including roof renovations, a new administrative building and site preparation for a new high school.

White County voters will vote on a proposed SPLOST extension for the White County Board of Education. Voters will be asked whether to extend the current Special Purpose Local Sales Tax for education facilities for a five-year period, from 2013-2018, for the purpose of building a new middle school and updating other building infrastructure.

The current SPLOST was approved to run from 2008 to 2013 and has averaged collections of about $3 million a year.

While contested municipal elections will only be scheduled in Helen, polling places countywide will be open to voters to decide the sales tax issue.



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