My initial first thoughts regarding SPLOST was that I would support it. I have always acknowledged the need our county had for a new jail and a new courthouse. As I looked at SPLOST VII more closely and really listened and explored the viewpoints from both sides I started to have grave concerns. Among those concerns the most egregious points were as follows:
1. The current SPLOST VI doesn't expire until 2013 so why were we voting on it in a special election in 2011? The special election was costing the taxpayers $45,000 and there were already 3 to 5 elections slated for 2012. There was no justification to waste these taxpayer's dollars and to do so in this economy was a disservice to each taxpayer, in my opinion. Having this special election was just another way our current elected officials were manipulating the voters and the process by hoping for a low voter turnout so their issue would pass. That isn't a government for the people, it's a government manipulating the people.
2. The public wasn't allowed to be a part of the process. We have public hearings on every tiny issue but we are putting a 1% tax on the shoulders of our citizens and we can't take the time to really make them a part of the process, and that bothers me. The jail and courthouse make up the bulk of the projects (approximately $100 million) and citizens didn't get a chance to really weigh in on the location. The fact that they counted work sessions as a place citizens could participate was a total joke So many citizens have deep feelings and attachment to the city square and many felt strongly about the square losing it's appeal and becoming only a government center. Long time citizens, as well as the vision 2030 chamber committee, wanted the city to become a place where citizens would meet to eat, see a show or shop. Most felt that any hope of that happening was erased with the approval of this SPLOST. I feel the process didn't make the necessary attempt to embrace the community or seek their ideas. It was more like the powers that be made all the decisions and then tried to quietly and forcefully get its passage without the citizens knowing any better. Once again that type of action is not an example of a government for the people.
3. District 4 has approximately 20% of the population of Forsyth County. Why then, is the district only set to receive 2% of the SPLOST VII project funding? District 5 received less, while Districts 1, 2, and 3 received the vast majority of the funding. Our current Commissioner was very enthusiastic about passing SPLOST VII, yet did not ensure that his own district had it's needs addressed.
4. Lastly, I feared that not enough thought has been made to know what building these enormous buildings will mean to our county's budget in the way of rising operating cost. No real figures were given as to that cost and SPLOST can't cover those. My fear is we will see a definite millage rate increase as a result of the SPLOST VII approval. If I'm elected, I will work hard to make sure that doesn't happen. Balancing the rising operating costs by reducing spending in another arena will be needed or else the taxpayers will shoulder a great tax burden as a consequence of poor planning.
A citizen oversite committee could greatly benefit the building process of both structures. We need to engage the public in this process and we need to make sure that every dollar spent has been done so frugally and efficiently. Too many times our county over pays for things like the county's money isn't real (like monopoly money), instead of shopping for the best deals. We need to change that way of thinking.
Those were my main concerns with SPLOST VII and why I was opposed to it in November 2011. If it had been done openly, with more citizen input, and at an already designated election time that didn't cost an added $45,000; I would have probably looked at it differently. But it wasn't and I didn't feel like it was a government for the people, but it was a government for a few.