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 OPINION PAGE - OCTOBER 27, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorial

The Commerce News
October 27, 1999

Vote For Gov't Change
And For 'Option 2'
Local voters can take a step Tuesday toward ensuring that Jackson County acquires professional management as the county nears the 21st century. Voters should overwhelmingly support the referendum changing the county government to a five-member board of commissioners with a county manager.
The county manager aspect is most important. Only by requiring that the day-to-day operations be handled by a trained professional can this county hope to have efficient and effective government. Having a county manager will not guarantee good government nor solve all problems, but it will greatly increase the chance that our government can effectively manage its resources.
There are two questions on the ballot. The first asks if the change in government should be made. Yes, it certainly should. Then there are two options. The first option is for all county commission candidates to run at large. The second is for a chairperson to run at large and four members to be elected by district.
Option two will do more to help attract quality candidates in the future. Jackson County is too big to expect every candidate for office to campaign countywide. Running from a district is more feasible, and the people in a candidate's district are those best able to judge his or her fitness for office. We elect city councilmen, board of education members, state senators and representatives and members of the U.S. Congress on the same principle.
Vote "Yes" for changing county government and select Option 2 to give this county the best hope for progressive, capable government.

Vote For Sales Tax
If you could get a 50 percent reduction in the cost of a major investment, say a house or a car, you'd jump at the chance, wouldn't you? Well, that's just about what approval of the special purpose local option sales tax referendum next Tuesday can do for taxpayers.
The five-year, one-percent tax is expected to generate $35 million that will be allocated to governments in the county by population. Seventy-five percent will go to water and sewer work, 23 percent for road improvements, 5.5 percent for recreation and 1.5 percent for a fire training facility.
A sales tax is the fairest form of taxation; it is based on one's spending. Those who spend little, pay little. What makes it attractive is that 40 percent or more of it will be paid by shoppers from somewhere else. We pay sales taxes in Banks, Clarke, Hall or Gwinnett counties when we shop there. Other people should pay similar taxes here when they shop here. And for the 23 percent going to road work, the Georgia Department of Transportation will match every dollar with 75 cents.
If the tax brings in the expected $35 million, out-of-town shoppers will pay $14 million of that. The DOT's match of the roads portion represents more than $6 million. The tax results in $41 million in revenue, of which less than $21 million comes directly from county taxpayers. Even the outlet stores don't have deals like that.
If the SPLOST does not pass, local governments will still have to do the water, sewer and road work, so taxpayers and water and sewer users will pay the entire cost. Major water and sewer projects will have to be financed with borrowed money, increasing their costs threefold.
This is the choice. Do we pay a penny at a time for five years and get what amounts to a 100 percent match from elsewhere, or do we finance the work for 20-30 years at three times the cost through higher property taxes or water and sewer rates?
Do the math. Vote yes for the special purpose local option sales tax. You can't afford not to.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 27, 1999


Voters To Pass
Gov't Change
And Sales Tax
Jackson County voters are going to make two smart moves next Tuesday. They're going to change their form of government, and they're going to pass a five-year, one-cent sales tax.
The decision to change the county government is a smart move, because virtually everyone recognizes the need to have professional management at the helm of county operations.
Certainly anyone who has paid attention to Commerce government over the past decade has seen what having city manager Clarence Bryant has done for this town. There is no reason why Jackson County government cannot be just as well managed with a county manager form of government.
Voters know they can't count on someone running for commission chairman and being elected who is professionally trained in county management. Right now, the top job in county government is a learn-on-the-job position. That's not the way you want to run a major enterprise, especially one that affects all citizens of the county. It's OK to let the political officials make policy decisions, but for management, let's hire a professional.
I don't think it will happen, but voters should also choose "Option 2," the "40 percent method," of electing the five part-time commissioners. The language in the bill was deliberately obscured by those who want at-large election of all commissioners, but voters should approve the by-district election of four commissioners and the at-large election of the chairman.
By-district elections will encourage more qualified people to run. Running at large is daunting; not many people can afford the expense or time it takes to run an effective campaign over this large county. Campaigning over a district, however, is much more appealing.
My guess is those who read the ballot will figure "100 percent" is better than 40 percent and vote that way. I can always hope.
The special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) really is an easy issue. Do we fund the county (and cities') water, sewer and road needs by floating bonds and borrowing money, or do we pay cash up front with help from out-of-county shoppers?
If you hate taxes (doesn't everyone?), you have even more reason to support this referendum, because it's like getting a 50 percent discount. The county is growing rapidly, and we're going to pay for roads, water and sewer lines, water and sewage treatment plants, whether we like it or not. With the SPLOST, we don't pay as much and other people help us pay.
You'll never notice that penny either. Disagree? Well, when the last SPLOST ended in July, did you notice any extra money turning up in your pocket? Neither did I.
In 1998, voters rejected the SPLOST by 66 votes. Turnout was low, interest minimal. Sixteen months later, most of us know that was a mistake.
Voters know what's going on locally. They know the issues. They understand the need for professional county management, and they understand that a sales tax is the best way to fund infrastructure needs. They'll vote yes next Tuesday to prove it.


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