The Commerce News
October 27, 1999
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
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
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.
The Commerce News
October 27, 1999
Voters To Pass
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
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
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.