SPLOST passes 4-1; Special tax headed to November ballot, voters
by Ricky Leroux
July 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 3238 views | 9 9 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Ott
Bob Ott
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MARIETTA — Tuesday’s runoff elections set up several choices for voters on November’s ballot, and the Cobb Board of Commissioners added one more Tuesday night: a potential one percent special sales tax.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Bob Ott opposed, to put a six-year special purpose local option sales tax before voters in November.

Several changes were made late Tuesday night to the list of projects to be funded by the SPLOST, which is expected to raise $750 million over its duration. Among the changes were a removal of a $72.5 million dollar project for intersection and pedestrian improvements along Cobb Parkway from the “tier two” section of the list, a move suggested by Chairman Tim Lee.

The $72.5 million line item was one of several in the SPLOST project list cited by critics as being connected to a controversial bus rapid transit project.

Initially, the BRT project was on the SPLOST list, but after receiving public comment on the issue, the commissioners decided to remove the project from the list. Lee reiterated the BRT absence from the list during the meeting.

“The project in its entirety has been removed from any paperwork, any project list,” Lee said.

Still, Lee recommended removing the $72.5 million earmark from the list before the vote.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid suggested another $60 million line item for improvements to Cobb Parkway be removed from a list of projects to be funded if federal, state or other funds become available. Cupid said she wanted the line item removed because constituents expressed concern the project could be used to fund BRT in the future, including some residents who made this argument during the public comment portion of the meeting.

In the July 2 draft of the SPLOST project list, the $60 million line item included a reference to BRT in its description, but in the July 15 draft, the reference to BRT was removed. Cupid said the lack of clarity regarding the project and its relationship to the proposed BRT gave her pause.

“Constituents shouldn’t have to play detective in understanding our line items, and I feel that is what they’ve done to uncover that BRT was referenced with one particular line item, which has not been removed, which is a $60 million project,” she said.

Lee argued the $60 million was put on the list by the Georgia Department of Transportation and it is necessary and unrelated to the BRT. Still, Cupid encouraged the board to remove the earmark before the vote.

“I’m not trying to diminish the need for improvements to the intersection beyond BRT,” Cupid said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that it was included in the SPLOST list with BRT included in that section prior to that. And I’m not the one that needs to be convinced at the end of the day; the voters are. And by now, there is overwhelming concern by them on things that have been changed that referenced BRT that no longer reference BRT.”

Ott and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell agreed with Cupid, and before the vote, the project was removed.

Commissioner Helen Goreham, along with Lee, disagreed with the change.

“I support the SPLOST. I don’t support this change,” Goreham said. “I will vote to support the intergovernmental agreement, but I do not support a change that has no basis, and for us to act out of some fear that has been created.”

Despite the removal of these two projects, Ott still voted against the measure because he believes the project list contains too many unnecessary items.

“I think (the project list) strays too far from special purpose. There’s too many projects on there that I don’t think are needs,” he said.

Before commissioners voted on whether to put the SPLOST before voters, they approved an intergovernmental agreement, which described how the funds raised by the SPLOST would be divided between Cobb County’s six cities and the county itself. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the agreement.

After the agreement’s approval, commissioners began discussion of the SPLOST project list and the changes they would like to make. However, the county attorney, Deborah Dance, informed commissioners the project list was included in the intergovernmental agreement; the subsequent vote was solely to decide whether to put the issue before voters. Learning the $60 million line item had been approved, Cupid called for a revote to revisit the intergovernmental agreement, which commissioners agreed to do, 4-1, with a frustrated Lee opposed.

Comments
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the SP in SPLOST
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September 19, 2014
SPLOST has been around for decades as euphemism that allows local Republicans to levy SALES TAX (the ST) without uttering the word TAX.

Now we have a new SPECIAL PURPOSE (the SP): the MLB Braves Franchise Corporation.

That leaves the LO for Local Option. It really means what happens to us if we vote for SPLOST, we LOSE OUT

BRAVES' LOSE OUT SALES TAX.

That is what our SPLOST is.

Poor Timmy
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July 23, 2014
Poor Timmy, it seems the only one who wants to play your game is Helen, and well, Helen is leaving you. Of course, Bobby will play in her place...for awhile....unitl the gang at the Chamber decide it's time for Timmy to leave the playground.
Dave Z
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July 23, 2014
It was a highly unusual meeting.

The $60 million line item could've remained on the list had Ron Sifen's no-BRT language been added. It seemed like a fair compromise - the needed projects get done, but the expense can't be used for toward BRT matches.

But Lee wasn't having it. He was strangely married to this line item and debated its merit for two hours. Why did Lee have so much love for this line item?

But when it became apparent that the line item wasn't going to remain "as is", he threw out the baby with the bath water. If he loved it so much, why totally remove it just because it wouldn't be linked to BRT?

Strange and suspicious behavior, to say the least. This is why people do not trust Lee.
Rhett Writer
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July 23, 2014
@help us,NRA. Another piece of drivel from a gun grabbing liberal. Grow up!
Be Careful
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July 23, 2014
Pleae vote "NO" on SPLOST.

What is the first letter in SPLOST?

"S", for "Special".

It's not special anymore. The SPLOSTs never end.

SPLOST money has become part of the normal operating budget, which is BAD!!!

Every time they want to do something, there's no money in the budget so SPLOST is the answer.

How about, learn to live on a budget like the rest of us have to do???????

NO MORE TAXES!!!

How about cut some useless spending. How about cut the number of people in government. How about stop people from double dipping after they retire?

NO MORE TAXES!!! NO TO SPLOST!!!!!!!
help us, NRA
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July 23, 2014
Why isn't the NRA an active supporter of public transit in these parts?

It would be such a easy ploy to scare people into buying and packing more heat, while actually serving a greater good

"Buy a gun! You just never know who might be on public transit with you! A gun is your only protection on public transit! By a gun, by gum!"
D.G. in Clarkdale
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July 23, 2014
You're nonsensical posting clearly paints you as a liberal troll, try again.
anonymous
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July 23, 2014
help us, NRA--you sound like a racist, liberal elite when you make statements using "code words" to suggest that people who ride on public transit are dangerous and to be scared of.

A two faced hypocrite you are, help us , NRA.
Save us from ^^ guy
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July 23, 2014
I've ridden different transit services all over the world. Amazing that I have never run into a safety issue. Your comment makes me think you have little to no real experience with transit. Just this idea (rooted in bigotry) that only dangerous, poor minorities ride those things. You should try to get out more; see what the world is really like.
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