WHEN I SEE a penny on the ground, I take the time to stop and pick it up. I remember a time in Orlando, Florida in 1984 when I rolled a pack of pennies together just to buy some soup for dinner. Pennies do add up.
Such is the case with the upcoming SPLOST referendum where pennies really matter. The circus around the SPLOST is a government dog-and-pony show where they bring out flashy presentations, promises of better drainage (in the midst of a low-lying basin), better roads, and special projects for each area of the city and county that are helpful to get politicians reelected.
It always amazes me that politicians who have no part in earning money for projects can take credit for something built with other people’s money. Joe Odom would be so proud.
The mantra to make SPLOST palatable is:
• The Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that buyers from outside of Chatham County pay 38% of the sales tax. (source: engineering.chathamcounty.org)
• The tourists, the pundits say, are paying for all of these projects. If this is true, why shouldn’t these tourists who clog our streets, make reservations hard to get at good restaurants and make parking a misery pay for our property taxes? How?
EHOST is the acronym for Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax. It takes a one penny sales tax and reduces your property taxes across the county.
Guess what? Using the Chamber of Commerce’s data, buyers from outside of Chatham County will pay 38% of the sales tax. Who could argue against that? Well...
The sound you hear now is the Chamber of Commerce shifting their chairs and breaking out calculators. Calls are being made to public relation gurus who will try and tell you that this additional one cent sales tax will destroy the fabric of the god known as SPLOST and his companion goddess ESPLOST.
Actually, an 8% sales tax is not uncommon in Georgia. 92 of the 159 counties have an 8% sales tax and Ware County has a 9% sales tax.
If an 8% sales tax is not to your liking, it is okay to vote down a SPLOST. Yes, it’s okay. It isn’t like it will be gone forever.
Twelve months later, they can legally come back and ask you again to approve a SPLOST. Think about this. This is the ultimate line item veto.
When the referendum fails and the government leaders are scratching their heads as to why this happened, the people can rise and point to the very things that don’t make sense.
You would have the opportunity to strip back the circus and point out the original purpose of SPLOST: roads and drainage.
It’s also okay to vote down an ESPLOST. Your Savannah-Chatham school board has turned into a building machine, and the concept of teaching your children has been thrown to the back burner.
Perhaps they need a little vacation from the pennies from heaven so they can take care of the thing that really matters: students.
The county can also legally use SPLOST for recreational functions. A recreational area for tents and campers would be the perfect solution for the many homeless individuals who currently live under bridges all across the county.
Health and welfare is a constitutional responsibility of the government of Chatham County.
Homeless people are citizens, not lepers.
EHOST takes the Chamber of Commerce data and road show and stands it upon its head. Why?
Because it gives a group, a very important group, power. It’s you.
Aren’t you tired of flooded streets after 30 years of promises? Aren’t you tired of roads with grass literally growing out of the street?
Have you had enough of a county policy that lets public property rot until the next SPLOST so they can tear down and replace?
Can you condone the lack of regional policy that would provide affordable housing for all the people of Chatham County?
The irony is this. If we had affordable housing in Chatham County for workforce development, it would attract businesses to the area that would create good paying jobs.
If we had recreational areas for the homeless to set up camp, the camps under bridges would disappear overnight and partnerships with churches, businesses and government would flourish.
If we focused on proper drainage and land management, we could develop more properties for single family homes, multi-dwelling complexes and other creative uses which would increase the tax base.
The only thing stopping Chatham County from transforming into a modern city is an entrenched group of power brokers who are stuck in a paradigm that still maintains a class system.
We need to improve on the things we are doing right, and absolutely stop the things we are doing wrong.
This is not a call from the hilltop for another study. Please no.
It is a call for the right people to gather together, to work together, to fellowship together and to pray together for a solution that benefits everyone.
It means talking, but more importantly listening.
A penny saved is a penny earned, but a penny for your thoughts has far more value.