Chatham County Commission Chair Al Scott and Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson are urging citizens to vote YES on the two (2) SPLOST questions that appear on the November 5 Special Election Ballot. Scott is also President of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP. Approval of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is being opposed by the local Tea Party that has launched an aggressive campaign featuring a barrage of street signs that say vote NO.
On November 5, voters will decide whether to continue the 1-percent sales tax to fund infrastructure improvements and other special projects as an alternative to increases in property taxes.
Early this month, Scott and Jackson released a letter to the Citizens of Savannah and Chatham County recalling the accomplishments in the 27 years since the first SPLOST was approved. In the letter, they mentioned improved drainage, paved streets, new fire stations and police precincts, and dramatically improved housing. They said that these changes are living proof of why we need to continue SPLOST.
The letter continues: “Pennies become dollars, and dollars become parks, roads, jobs, a new arena… in short, pennies enhance the quality of life in our community more than any other single source. It is important to remember that 38% of these benefits are paid for by visitors from outside Chatham County.”
Mayor Jackson and Chairman Scott continued to promote the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on Sunday during the NAACP Mass Meeting at St. John Baptist Church.
“Here is a program where you can have people doing the things they want to see happen, and it doesn’t just put the burden on the residents paying the home taxes, but it makes all of us pay just a little,” Jackson said. The Mayor told those in attendance that SPLOST funds have allowed the City to construct fire stations, police stations and build other infrastructure. “Look at Ellis Square downtown,” she said. “Look at some of the other things that have been done. … Look at the parks we have in this community and the areas where we have been able to rebuild.”
Jackson also said that the SPLOST revenue should help the police department. “Public safety and making sure that our police force has the necessary equipment to keep us safe in this community — that is also a part, and that is why I’m very adamant that we need to continue this 1-cent, because if it ever goes away, it will be hard to get back again.”
Scott said the tax is important because it provides funding for capital projects without incurring debt. He noted that SPLOST was enacted in 1985 when he served as a Georgia State Senator. He explained that SPLOST is far better than increased property taxes to pay for these projects. “If you don’t pay your property taxes, your house will be sold on the courthouse steps. There is no tax that is more of a burden on those who own their own homes than a property tax. The penny doesn’t even come close,” he said.
SPLOST is not a new tax. If the voters approve continuation of SPLOST the funds will finance certain capital projects within Chatham County including storm-water and drainage; road, street, bridge, and transportation; water and sewer infrastructure; administrative, cultural, judicial, industrial and recreational facilities and improvements; park facilities and improvements; green space; public works and public safety equipment and facilities.
Even though 38% of the sales tax is paid for by visitors to our community, all of the proceeds directly benefit the citizens of Chatham County by funding critical local projects without increasing property taxes.
In Savannah, SPLOST has paved hundreds of miles of roads and sidewalks, provided new public safety resources, added new neighborhood parks, and created exciting projects that have led to millions of dollars in private investment, such as the redevelopment of Ellis Square and the Savannah Gardens and Sustainable Fellwood. Almost half of the City of Savannah’s SPLOST funds have been spent on drainage, which has dramatically improved living conditions in all areas of Savannah.