To SPLOST or Not To SPLOST?


People often tell me that the listeners of my program do what I tell them to. Well, if you’re a listener, I don’t have to tell you what a load of bunk that is. We have one of the most intelligent audiences in radio. You and I have a good relationship, and we can have good discussions. If I make the right arguments, I can win you over to my point of view. But do what I tell you to? Hardly.

There have been people who’ve suggested I should tell you what to do regarding the upcoming SPLOST vote. But I refuse. Why? There are several reasons. One is that you can make up your own mind. Another is that I’m not entirely sure what my position is in the first place.

As far as the concept of SPLOST goes, I think it can very be a good tool, especially useful in a community that relies on tourism as heavily as ours does. It’s not quite as bountiful for counties like Brantley where most of the visitors from out of town don’t stop. But in Glynn, we have the double threat of tourists and people coming into Glynn to work from other areas (not to mention the day trippers to the beach), so it’s a way to shift the burden of taxation away from ourselves. The numbers have been argued about, but the statistical argument presented by the Carl Vinson institute that suggests 55-60 percent of the money comes from non-residents makes sense on its surface. Others have suggested the figure is as low as 25 percent. However, based on their method of calculating 25 percent, it seems they are leaving out the day workers from their figures and focusing only on tourists.

Let’s say, though, that the 25 percent figure is accurate. It’s still a large chunk of money going to our needs that wouldn’t fall directly on our backs. I’ve been told by some that it’s not reasonable to expect non-residents to pay for our needs in this way, that they contribute already in other ways. They do, but I think there’s wear and tear on our community that they’re not contributing to.

One of the big items on the project list is improving storm drainage in the city. Storm drainage is something that everybody who comes into and even passes through town benefits from. A couple of years ago, a friend called me and asked to meet me at a spot on Highway 17. He then proceeded to give me a guided tour of what a disaster our storm drainage system is. It needs a significant amount of repair, and to be honest, I’m sick and tired of all the flooding in Brunswick being blamed on sea level rise! Not only do we need to repair the system so people who live in town don’t suffer losses in flooding, but we also need to put the sea level rise speculation to the test. Non-residents will benefit from this. In what other ways will they contribute to solving the problem? The estimate of the costs to fully restore the storm drainage system is north of $20 million. The city can not and will not be able to complete this project in a timely manner on using property taxes alone. Truth is, the pace they’re choosing to use to attack it with SPLOST is too slow for me, but it’s something.

Used for infrastructure purposes SPLOST can be a significant tool to help the residents of the county without overburdening them. But there are some downsides.

Unnecessary projects seems to proliferate under SPLOSTs and budgets never seem to be met. This seems to be something that isn’t going away and it seems to infect all manner of SPLOSTs. One of the items on the ballot on March 16this the declaration that the city’s proposed conference center from a 20-year-old SPLOST is infeasible. Many of us argued at the time that it was an unnecessary project and we’ve ultimately been proven right. It was a waste of time and resources to pursue it for so long, and it never should have been a SPLOST project. The ESPLOST has the same problem with their Performing Arts Center, by the way, and I suspect it will meet a similar fate down the road. We have an animal control facility currently under construction for far more than it was budgeted, and we built a Veterans’ Park that soared past its budget. Both are SPLOST projects.

Another complaint about the current SPLOST proposal is that there are still unfinished projects from the previous SPLOST. I’ve heard the county’s reasoning on why these projects aren’t completed yet, and it doesn’t sound unreasonable. And the fact that 31 of 46 projects HAVE been completed is probably far and above what we should expect from government in this day and age. But the fact remains that there are incomplete projects out there and it doesn’t sit right with some people.

One solution the county has proposed is a full-time project manager to directly oversee the SPLOST projects, and—as I understand it—report directly to the commission, not to the county manager. The money to pay for this position could be recouped by the savings realized by not hiring individual project managers for each SPLOST project. They’ve also taken measures like just including the planning for the courthouse revamp in the SPLOST and not the entire project, which will be a monster. They did this so they can have a firm and accurate idea of what will be involved—both in effort and your money—to do the project right when the time comes to hit you up for the money to pay for it.

I’ve spent a good amount of time speaking individually with commissioners about this SPLOST, and one thing I will tell you is that I believe they are sincere and passionate in their desire to create positive change in the way the SPLOST is handled. I have absolutely no doubt about that. The issue will be whether or not the wheels of government roll over them as they try to stand in the way, like a Tianenmen Square tank. I hope not.

So back to the question of the day: how do I think you should vote on SPLOST? My answer: however your conscience will allow you to, but please educate the yourself, ask questions, hear from both sides, and vote.


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