With unanimous votes, Columbia County commissioners last week approved sales tax and bond referendum votes for November.
Now comes the hard part: Selling it to voters.
The sales pitch at least on the special purpose local option sales tax shouldn't be hard. There are enough small goodies in the package to persuade most voters to swallow the larger items.
That's the way sales taxes are always done. Voters want individual, close-to-home projects such as water lines and road paving, and don't want to risk losing them by turning down other projects.
Such big-ticket items in the commission's list include:
• A $13.4 million expansion of the county's Justice Center;
• a government complex parking garage at $4 million;
• additions to the detention center at more than $10 million; and,
Such items, along with new-bond cost or retirement of old bond debt, add up to $56 million in what commissioners refer to as "countywide" projects.
None of these expenses includes the $54 million in transportation projects, $16 million in water and stormwater projects and $14.3 million in recreation proposals. It's safe to say those "countywide" projects are the bitter pills the voters will swallow in order to get such things as water lines to their neighborhoods.
These expenses also don't include some $18 million for building an aquatic and tennis center. That funding instead would come from a separate bond referendum.
Those facilities have vocal boosters who will need to convince voters to raise their own property taxes to pay for them. Conversely, sales-tax boosters have only to remind voters that approving the SPLOST simply continues an existing tax, spreading expenses over a much larger base that includes visitors to the county - including, potentially, users of a future aquatic center.
The vote on both is Nov. 4. That gives less than 10 weeks for boosters, or detractors, to get their messages out.
Let the debate begin.
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