17 March 2017

Why I'm voting against the 2017 Newton Co. SPLOST

The Piedmont Chronicles 

Howdy, folks. Hope all is well out there. It's been a while since we've conversed in this space, and for that, I apologize. But, what can I say? I think of the old fable about the lady who nurses the snake back to health. I am Marshall McCart, after all, and these are The Piedmont Chronicles. You know who you're dealing with here, right? As I always have during the 7 year life of this blog, I tend to take breaks, but I always seem to forget to put out the proverbial "Gone Fishing" sign. Oh well, it's not like you people are paying for this or anything.

So, SPLOST is upon us once again. Last time around, about six years ago, I wrote an editorial to the Covington News explaining why I wasn't supporting it. This time around and I find myself as a stringer for that publication, and as you may have noticed, they're all for it. And that's fine. That's their prerogative, and I write about music and occasionally,Living Southern, in that publication, not politics. We can agree to disagree.

I have, however, been surprised with a few of the other supporters for this edition of the SPLOST. Namely, Mr. J. Aaron Brooks, but again, that's his prerogative. And truth be told, he's been making some compelling points, as he sometimes does. He is, after all, an economist in addition to being a "local politician," gentleman, and scholar. So, there's that...

It wasn't an easy decision, but I have, just here recently, really, made my decision on this thing. I will not be voting for the 2017 SPLOST. What kept me from making this decision were the monies earmarked for a new Animal Control building. Lord knows we need it; Newton County Animal Control has long been improperly funded, and a new building has been needed for quite some time. This is an issue near and dear to my heart, but I think sometimes you have forego things you may desire in order to make the best decision for the long run. And I think that's where we're at.

As I said on this page several months back, it should have been a better list. And that's not knocking anybody involved with this process. You have to remember that all the leg work for this thing was done last year, when we had a less than ideal situation with our county political structure. If only the SPLOST was coming up for renewal next year, we'd be golden. But that's not the case. Whereas we now have faith and confidence with things regarding the Newton BOC, last year we did not. It is what it is.

What are my problems with this year's SPLOST? Glad you asked. 

A full million for economic development? I'm sorry. Just no. Right at a million for District 2 and 4 projects? Again, I'm sorry, I just can't abide by it. And if we're doing that, why not $500K each for Districts 1, 3 & 5? A million three for the Yellow River Trail? Come on!  And upwards of $15 million for the municipalities of Newton County? Are you kidding me?! There were other issues as well; however, the biggest thing, to me, was the money NOT being spent. Only $1.3 million for solid waste? What?! The biggest drain on the county budget, and they're only going to throw it peanuts? Solving our nightmarish trash woes is the epitome of what SPLOST could AND should be used for. We could easily turn solid waste into at least a zero sum situation with proper funding for projects like gasification, landfill reclamation, methane extraction, etc.,  if not actually realizing a profit - but only with the proper funding and investment.

And that's without going into the amount for debt reduction. A major item of consideration.

But this is the kicker, folks. This thing, SPLOST, is for five years. This is big time, baby! It's for keeps. If we make the wrong decision now, then we're stuck with it. We need to get it right, now.

I will say this: if we vote down the SPLOST on the 21st then it is true that we'd have to wait 12 months, per state law, to do another one. That's been verified, and that's probably been the biggest and most compelling argument for the pro side. It wouldn't be the end of the world, though. This is a multi-year process. Sure, there would be some issues - primarily for the municipalities, and maybe for the county government as well - but it wouldn't be fatal. Solutions could be found. Creative financing could be used to get by. We'll be fine. So, in my estimation, we need to get our heads right and pass a better SPLOST list this time next year. But if we pass this list now, then we're stuck with it. For five years.

I think the wise, prudent and responsible decision is to vote NO on the 2017 SPLOST.

Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,

Marshall McCart