Columbia County commissioners have until next Tuesday to finish a list of projects that would be funded by borrowing money and paying it back with a property tax increase.
That part is simple. Voters can study it, then approve it or shoot it down. But the process itself, over the past few days, has gotten increasingly complicated - and threatens to torpedo any likelihood of voter approval.
We noted the other day that Sheriff Clay Whittle, who felt commissioners had shown disrespect to him and to Probate Judge Pat Hardaway, had pulled his support from the bond and told commissioners to remove the items he'd requested. (They didn't, by the way.)
Shortly after that dust-up, Grovetown's City Council also voted to not support the bond.
Whittle's disagreement with the commissioners is mostly about perception: Constitutional officers expect, and often deserve, more respect for their funding requests because they answer to all the county's voters.
Grovetown's disagreement is about perception, too - but unfortunately for the citizens of Columbia County's largest city, it is myopic misperception by city leaders. Their hasty withdrawal has three major problems:
• First, Grovetown officials base their opposition on the results of the recent primary straw poll questions on the bond, both of which failed. But that's no surprise: The straw-poll questions just ask voters if they want to spend more tax money without telling them why.
That's one reason, in our pre-election look at the poll questions, we suggested that voters oppose the bond poll; no one should buy a pig in a poke.
Conversely, a real bond referendum must spell out every proposed project. Voters know, up front, what they're getting.
• Second, city officials are upset that the county would own the projects that the bond money would pay for. Well, state law requires that projects funded with a county property tax-financed bond issue be owned by the county. It's not as if commissioners are trying to rip off city officials; they're just obeying the law.
• The third misconception from Grovetown is perhaps the worst: They're dragging out the tired old complaint that the two cities and the rural areas won't get "their share" of the funds.
Never mind that "their share" may not reflect the greatest needs of the county; priorities are always open to fair debate. County Commissioner Lee Anderson has long pursued the goal of his district, which encompasses the cities and much of the county's rural areas, getting at least one-fourth of the funds from the bond to reflect the fact that he presides over one of four commission districts.
He's gotten his way, in spades: The current list for bond funding actually spends a larger percentage of money in District 4 than any other district - even though the district's sparsely-populated tax base contributes the smallest share to the county's coffers!
Where is all this headed? Unfortunately for citizens who believe the bond is the best way to take care of unmet needs for better roads, improved fire service, drainage repairs and new water lines, it's likely going down in flames.
Grovetown officials, and any other citizens who decide to oppose the bond, ultimately should do so based on whether the money is needed, and whether the amount requested is the best way to get the job done.
No one should oppose it, however, based on ill-will and misconceptions. That's not leadership; that's just hard-headed.
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