For very simple reasons, I urge all citizens of Columbia County to cast "no" votes on the proposed Georgia Constitutional amendments and on the Special Election provisions presented on the upcoming November ballot.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1:
Cleverly disguised as a commitment for conservation and forest preservation, this amendment would allow owners of all forest lands in excess of 200 acres to pay property taxes at a significantly lower rate for a period of 15 years. This amendment promises the state will reimburse counties for lost revenue, through local assistance grants, at a rate of 50 percent for the first 3 percent and 100 percent of the remainder, unless the governor decides otherwise.
The fact is that all lost revenue would have to be made up by taxpayers that don't own over 200 acres of timberland. ...
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2:
This amendment would allow local governments to designate special "Redevelopment Districts" to be identified, managed and taxed by an appointed governing authority with no accountability to the taxpayers. This authority would have the power to incur debt and issue Tax Allocation Bonds for the designated district. This amendment only guarantees risk-free investments for builders and developers at the expense of residents of the designated district by way of an additional tax.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3:
Similar to "Redevelopment Districts," this amendment would allow the designation of special "Infrastructure Development Districts," which would also allow the appointment of another governing body with the ability to issue tax allocation bonds and incur debt for that district. Once again, the residents of the district would incur an additional tax, providing builders and developers with more risk free investments. ...
The projected $180 million revenue generated by extending the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for an additional six years is something to be supported. However, the projects approved by voting "yes" to this referendum do little to help the average citizen of Columbia County. The people that would benefit most from the proposed projects are the builders and a real estate company.
New buildings, new parking decks and new land are great projects during booming economic times. However, our struggling economy warrants a slower approach. This proposed referendum is premature by two years, as this SPLOST would not go into effect until 2011, and I believe project development should be delayed until our three new commissioners have had time to get their feet on the ground and truly educate and seek the opinions of their constituents. ...
General Obligation Bond:
Columbia County doesn't need an $18 million swimming/tennis complex to be built on an undetermined site. In addition, the county estimates that such a facility would have to be subsidized by property owners by at least $263,000 each and every year in the future, and I am betting that estimate is severely understated. ...
All of the proposals have been manipulated to sound good, but they are carefully designed to benefit a handful of special interest groups and they are the direct result of extensive lobbying efforts by these groups. Through our right to vote, we have the responsibility to ensure our tax expenditures are in the best interest of all citizens and not just a few.
Brett S. McGuire
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