Powder Springs, Georgia – The Cobb Taxpayers Association (CTA) announced today that its board has voted unanimously to oppose having the Cobb County Board of Commissioners (BOC) place another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot in November, 2014. The BOC is scheduled to vote on whether to put it on the ballot at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 22nd.
“I will be bringing to that meeting next week a recommendation that we go through with putting a referendum on the November ballot this year that would extend the 1 percent sales tax that ends Dec. 31, 2015, for a period of six years,” Lee said on Thursday.
“Unfortunately for Cobb taxpayers, the County has become overly dependent on SPLOST and is using it to pay for routine maintenance items which should be budgeted through other revenue sources”, said Lance Lamberton, Chairman of the CTA. “It is shocking to think that something like 98% of the Cobb’s Department of Transportation budget is dependent on SPLOST. Instead of being a special purpose tax, it has morphed into a permanent one,” Lamberton said.
Another concern of the CTA Board is that since state law requires that the SPLOST be levied at a full one percent, it contends that many projects are placed on the project list regardless of need. As an alternative, CTA is asking that the BOC hold off on putting this SPLOST on the ballot, and give the state legislature another chance to pass a fractional SPLOST in the next legislative session, and then come back with a SPLOST which is more aligned with needs versus wants. Fractional SPLOST legislation almost passed in the last session, but was not enacted due to an inability to reconcile House and Senate versions of the bill in the waning hours of the session.
Of special concern to the CTA is placing the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on the Tier II level of this SPLOST. “It is deceptive and misleading to try to hide this extraordinarily wasteful, expensive and counter-productive project onto the Tier II list, and expect that taxpayers will be duped into not recognizing it for what it is,” Lamberton said.
CTA maintains that the BRT was soundly rejected at the polls with the defeat of the regional Transportation SPLOST in 2012, which had a similar project in it. “The people have spoken” Lamberton said. “It is time for the BOC to listen.”
According to CTA Vice Chairman, David Staples: “I am especially alarmed at a $50 million allocation in the list of Tier I Department of Transportation Projects, whose only justification is to provide a local match for state and federal funding. This is clearly an attempt to help fund the BRT, and to put it in the SPLOST list without specifying what it is for is but another shallow attempt to deceive taxpayers.” He added, “Taxpayers should not have open-ended allocations like this included in a SPLOST list. Projects should be specific and transparent.”
If the BOC does put the SPLOST on the ballot at their July 22ndmeeting, CTA pledges that it will launch a full-fledged campaign to defeat it at the polls. If that were to happen, Cobb County’s sales tax would decline to 5% in 2016, making it the lowest sales tax in the state. Most counties in the Atlanta metro area have a sales tax rate of 7%. “This significantly reduced tax rate would be a boon to Cobb County residents and businesses, saving consumers hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years that we would be free from the SPLOST tax burden,” Lamberton said.
Representing hundreds of taxpayers throughout Cobb County, CTA was formed in 2005 to oppose passage of that year’s SPLOST, and has since been active in opposing subsequent SPLOSTS, including the aforementioned Transportation SPLOST. It also supported passage of the Charter School Amendment, and is working for passage of a fractional SPLOST and other measures to reduce taxes, spending, and provide for a more equitable and efficient tax system for all Georgians.
Under the organization’s by-laws that were adopted by its five member board in 2013, CTA was established to:
Organize and inform voters of the benefits and advantages of reducing and/or limiting taxes and government spending.
Inform the public about current issues and engage them in grass-roots activities designed to achieve the above-stated objective.
Advocate and promote private sector solutions to public policy issues.
Work constructively with elected officials to oppose or support legislation, ordinances and measures which support a more limited, transparent, and accountable government on the local, county and state level.
Focus only on taxation and government spending issues and engage its activities only to those which are directly related to the above-stated objectives.