Cobb sales tax vote preamble to countywide financial review

Cobb County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to put another SPLOST extension before voters in March, at the same time saying they will begin the process of reducing the county’s dependency on the sales tax revenues.

Commissioners voted 4 to 1 on the four-year, one-percent tax levy that, if approved by voters, is expected to generate $492 million for parks, recreation and transportation maintenance projects for the county and Cobb’s six cities. Collections would begin Jan. 1, 2012, just as the current six-year SPLOST ends Dec. 31, 2011.

The March 15 referendum is expected to cost about $400,000.

Just after voting to extend the special local option sales tax, commissioners called for a resolution directing chairman Tim Lee to outline plans for a full fiscal review of the county’s financial policies.

“The public needs to know that we are committed to a change of course in the county,” Commissioner Bob Ott said. “We can’t continue to have major portions of the budget that are depending on the SPLOST.”

About 70 percent of the county's transportation department budget is dependent on SPLOST, department director Faye DiMassimo said.

The resolution will be on the commission’s agenda Thursday, its last meeting of the year. Lee has said he intends to initiate the review, which could include creating a citizens’ panel responsible for examining spending priorities.

The original six-year SPLOST proposal was dogged by residents opposed to paying more taxes during a tough economy and a majority of commissioners who criticized the project list.

Lee postponed a vote on the levy twice over the past few weeks, while staff worked to trim the list first to a five-year levy, then to the current four.

Commissioner Helen Goreham cast the dissenting vote Tuesday, calling the process “rushed.” She voted with the other commissioners for the financial review.

Both SPLOST supporters and opponents agreed Tuesday on the need for the financial review.

“This is the pitfall of SPLOST. They build all these capital projects and when the economy turns bad they don’t have money to maintain them,” said James Bell, president of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance, which has opposed the sales tax extension. “We’re asking where is the money? What did they do with the property taxes and fees they’ve raised?”

Cobb SPLOST extended

The four-year SPLOST extension is expected to generate $492 million to be used for:

Cobb's six citites (distributed based on population), $129.5 million

Transportation, $250.9 million

Parks, recreation, cultural affairs, $82 million

Facilities, $16.7 million

Public safety, $12.9 million

For a complete project list, visit