I usually early vote during its first week, but as I write this I haven’t voted on the controversial Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum. I will have before you read this. My delay has awaited answers to valid questions.
Many friends whose judgment I value will be disappointed that I have concluded passing SPLOST is in Hall County’s overall, long-term best interest. I’m voting for it. Here’s why.
Even a number of opposing friends concede openly that some of the projects are unquestionably needed now. Many have told me that with a better economy, they’d support it. Sales taxes ensure that all pay something toward facilities they use, not just property owners.
Hall County’s regional status means that about 40 percent of the total tax is paid by non-Hall County residents who use our facilities but don’t pay directly for the construction. As opponents concede, some projects are needed now. If we don’t let those others pay up to 40 percent of their cost, we pay for it all by ourselves through property tax increases, reduced level of vital services, which can be very expensive, taxpayer guaranteed revenue anticipation bonds, etc.
While in some cases it’s valid, the opposing argument that we shouldn’t build because it’ll mean more taxes to maintain permanently is rather weak. As populations grow, infrastructure to serve that population efficiently is going to grow. It’s human nature, but when we "get ours," we’re not too enthused about helping another area of the county "getting theirs."
Some who support the projects think it best not to proceed until the economy recovers. Finally, many just flat oppose it philosophically or for varying other reasons.
This is not a new tax, not an extra tax. We’re paying it right now. It’s continuing a current tax that otherwise would expire. It’s been proven this type of tax is the overall least expensive way to fund needed infrastructure, so why should we deliberately shun it?
Putting projects for all sections of the county in the package is no cynical ploy. It’s needed to gain support to overcome the "we’ve got ours" and philosophical anti-tax groups. If you’re going to hold this kind of a referendum, you try to win.
Those are the principal factors that finally pushed me to the yes side. You vote your well-thought-out conviction and I’ll have no complaint.
Folks, Ed Jared’s just-out book "One Hell of a Ride" is a great read. He tells how he interwove a lifelong love of flying with helping pioneer Hall County’s economic growth with innovative groundbreaking ventures and civic affairs. What makes it so easy and interesting to read is the way he tells the story in simple layman’s language. There’s no evidence of the meticulous research to confirm and reconfirm all details that many books have. He simply tells it as he remembers it, acknowledging that memories fade with time.
This guy flew "The Hump" over the Himalayas in World War II, delivering supplies, mostly gasoline, to China; ran a civilian air service; was corporate pilot and military sales manager for J.D. Jewell; manager of a poultry company and the Dixie Hunt Hotel; managed the chamber of commerce; worked in economic development; knew and hobnobbed with celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Art Linkletter, astronaut Wally Schirra, etc.
The book’s forward was written by his son-in-law Jody Powell, who’s remembered as President Carter’s press secretary. Copies are available at the History Center. Read it. You won’t be sorry.
Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com.