Early voting has begun in Gwinnett where voters will decide if they would like to renew a one percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
The one-cent SPLOST would be a continuation of a program begun in the mid-1980s. Anyone making purchases in Gwinnett pays a four percent state sales tax, and county sales taxes consisting of a one percent Education-SPLOST and one percent SPLOST, for a total of six percent on every dollar spent. Cobb also collects just six percent. Most metro counties collect seven percent. City of Atlanta residents pay eight percent.
The continuation of Gwinnett’s SPLOST is estimated to raise $487 million over the next three years with 78.9 percent allocated to county projects and the remaining 21.1 percent going to cities.
Gwinnett plans to dedicate 70 percent to transportation projects, including $25 million for joint city/county projects. The remaining 30 percent will go to public safety, parks, libraries and senior facilities.
Without SPLOST funds, Gwinnett residents and commercial businesses will almost certainly incur higher property taxes to maintain the county’s infrastructure. Some might say, “well, they get the money from you one way or another.” And to some degree that’s true, but estimates indicate as much as 40 percent of the sales taxes collected in Gwinnett are paid by visitors to the county.
Most city road projects, park and library improvements in recent years have been paid for with SPLOST funds. New fire stations, police cars and equipment have all benefitted. According to Loganville City Manager Bill Jones, “In some cases it is the only funding for specific projects that would otherwise have to wait such as road paving, pothole repairs, drainage issues, public safety facilities… to name just a few.”
Gwinnett has rightfully had some trouble in recent years trusting elected officials. Hopefully we’ve cleaned house now. Advantages to the SPLOST program include a Citizen Review Committee currently made up of seven residents who examine audit results and updates on each project’s progress and expenses. Approval to continue the program is only good for three years. Voters have the opportunity to change their mind if the program veers off course.
Take a moment before heading to the polls to evaluate the thorough information provided by Gwinnett outlining how SPLOST funds are spent at: www.gwinnettcounty.com. Select Departments; choose Board of Commissioners, then SPLOST.
I tend to agree with Mr. Jones about the one percent SPLOST, “Its the amazing penny that becomes a powerful funding mechanism for communities that would otherwise require additional revenue at the taxpayer’s expense. It is not a property tax. It’s a user tax.”
Karen Huppertz has lived in Gwinnett County for 14 years. Reach her at email@example.com.