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New projects have later costs, too

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2003

New projects have later costs, too

Its hard to believe that its already time for Columbia County to study how to spend the next five years of sales-tax collections.

But 2005 will be here before we know it, and with it comes the time to renew the one-percent, special-purpose, local-option sales tax and the list of capital improvement projects it funds.

An old hand at this process has returned to shepherd the county through the process: Robin Chasman, of Athens, Ga., based Chasman Associates, has again been brought in to solicit input from local officials and the community, and craft a plan for commissioners to consider and then send to voters next year for approval.

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Chasman did an outstanding job last time, by all accounts. We have no doubt hell do the same this time around.

From the looks of public input offered in a series of meetings around the county last week, there seems to be strong sentiment for recreation projects. As with the last set of sales-tax wishes, requests for a skateboard park have again risen, in addition to calls for construction of more soccer fields, a new gym and the Disc Golf Associations national headquarters.

Exciting as some of them are, most of the ideas citizens presented last week are just blue-sky visions of spending someone elses money. It must be remembered that for every public field or building constructed with painless sales-tax funds, property tax income must be tapped to operate those facilities. More ball fields mean higher Recreation Department payroll and higher maintenance costs; more libraries mean more librarians, more computers and more books. And unless we want those staffers to operate only in the daylight, theres a light bill to be paid, too.

Thats where county officials come in. In considering public demand for new amenities, county officials must temper wish-lists with the ongoing cost for operating those services in the future.

he sales tax is still the best way to fund such large, one-shot construction projects. But county commissioners must be on guard lest those fine-sounding, special-interest improvements create an expensive, never-ending burden on all taxpayers.



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