5th letter: Lesser of two weevils
[Editor’s note: Paul Lentz has written a series of letters exploring the dilemma underlying the SPLOST issue. This is the fifth and last in that series of letters.]
Once, there was a little boy who wanted a boll weevil for a pet. The pet store only had two, a big one and a little one. Thinking the little one wouldn’t eat as much, the boy chose the lesser of the two weevils.
So far, I’ve pointed out four objections to the proposed Core Infrastructure SPLOST, and one reason to vote for it. In case you didn’t read the earlier letters, here’s a summary of the objections.
1. The county’s “Core Infrastructure SPLOST Plan” lacks justification for many of the projects and appears to be not much more than “smoke and mirrors.” It certainly does not justify going from a $667,000 annual budget to more than $13 million in taxes.
2. I am philosophically opposed to taxes being set aside for a specific government service, because when budgets are planned, that money and that service are “off the table” for discussion; the service doesn’t have to compete with other services. (The one exception is a stormwater management fee assessed equitably and across the board based on impervious surfaces: roofs, roads, parking lots.)
3. The county appears to be commingling money from different sources and allocating it for different purposes in a shell game.
4. It seems that Peachtree City, Fayetteville, and Tyrone property owners who already pay a stormwater management fee are going to be paying for stormwater functions in the unincorporated county through the general fund budget. These functions should be paid for by a county stormwater management fee.
On the other hand, I intend to vote for the SPLOST because I believe it will be good for Peachtree City.
Having served on the Needs Assessment Committee, I became as familiar with the city’s budget as a layperson not on city staff could be. I know how carefully the staff has squeezed every dollar of revenue. I know something about road repair from a summer on a county road crew.
I know that the staff has put together lists of roads and paths desperately in need of repair. I know that asphalt doesn’t deteriorate at a constant rate, but that the rate of deterioration rises nearly exponentially after about eight to 10 years.
I know that funding road and path repair with a millage increase would cost the average homeowner $600 to $800, while the SPLOST would cost the average homeowner between $300 and $400. That makes the SPLOST the lesser of the two weevils.
This does not mean that the county is off the hook. We all need to demand greater transparency and accountability. We need to demand clarity of planning, and insight into projects proposed on or to benefit private property.
We residents of municipalities with stormwater management programs and fees must demand that stormwater management functions in the unincorporated county be paid for by residents of those areas through a stormwater fee or other funding vehicle that clearly segregates the money from our property taxes.
I have often said that we must take back our government. Never has that been more true than today.
Peachtree City, Ga.