What a difference a county line makes.
In Augusta, geographic and cultural differences are wreaking havoc with a proposed extension of Richmond County's 1-cent, local-option sales tax, or SPLOST. Voters may eventually be asked to approve as many as five different spending options on the same ballot, a recipe for division and confusion.
Columbia County, if anything, has the opposite problem; the sales-tax renewal process here has gone so smoothly that residents haven't gotten excited about any particular proposed projects.
Five years ago, the last time the sales tax went to voters, the renewal was dominated by a single big-ticket item: the county's new main library. This year's referendum won't likely have a single focus, but instead will present a wide variety of capital improvement needs for citizen approval.
A series of hearings in September brought suggestions from citizens ranging from building more soccer fields to extending water lines to rural residents, along with traditional calls for transportation improvements. Consultant Robin Chasman, who capably guided the county in the last SPLOST renewal, also interviewed county officials to gauge their needs.
Much of this information will be presented tonight at 6 p.m. at the Government Complex Auditorium in Evans, and Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Appling Courthouse. This also will be one of the last opportunities for citizens to speak out in favor of their priorities for sales tax spending before the final list is put together. Voters then will be asked July 20 to sign off on the plan.
The sales tax is a great way to finance capital projects; it helps relieve the burden on property owners, and it brings in funds from those passing through the county. The other key to its fairness, though, is for citizens to reach a broad consensus on how the money is spent. It's too bad our neighbors to the east, who benefit from tremendous numbers of Columbia County citizens spending money in Richmond County stores, can't likewise reach an accord.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Columbia County sales tax public hearings
WHEN: Today at 6 p.m., Columbia County Government Complex Auditorium, Evans; Thursday at 6 p.m., Appling Courthouse
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