The primary argument by many of those supporting passage of the SPLOST IV 1% sales tax increase is, they say, because it is necessary for public safety. Included in the list of proposed (not guaranteed… proposed) public safety projects to be paid for out of SPLOST revenue are, in part:
- A police station estimated to cost $4 million,
- Three new fire stations estimated to cost $2 million each
- Replacement of two fire stations estimated at $2 million each
- An unspecified number of police cruisers estimated at $1.4 million
- An unspecified number of Ambulances estimated to cost $380k
- Jail Renovations estimated at $5 million
- Replacement of the 911 radio system estimated at $7 million
Most rational people would agree that there are very convincing reasons for which these public safety expenditures are necessary and, in some cases, even urgent. This is probably why many members of Henry County Fire Department are supporting SPLOST.
I would encourage public safety employees to reconsider this stance. Once these other pork projects in SPLOST IV are built, such as the senior center, airport terminal, and amphitheater, the public safety departments will then have to compete with them every year for funding. All of those facilities will require either staffing, insurance, maintenance, or a combination thereof that will come from the same pot of money that pays their salaries and buys their equipment. The General Fund. Either they won’t get the funding they need or property taxes must be raised to accommodate the new expenditures.
However, it is unreasonable and unfair for the Board of Commissioners to force the citizens of Henry County to agree to irresponsible and unnecessary projects as a condition of having our public-safety needs met.
We simply cannot afford to spend $3.5 million on another Senior Center which will only benefit a handful of residents in Hampton. Yes, they were promised one in 2007 in SPLOST III but economic times have changed and the previous administration (including current Commissioner Reid Bowman) is guilty of diverting those funds to other pork projects that benefitted themselves and their cronies. The $10 million golf course comes to mind here. The folks in District Two who were cheated out of their SPLOST III Senior Center and now demanding one in SPLOST IV should’ve been paying closer attention back then to prevent the fraud, waste, and abuse by the Mathis Administration. It is clearly no longer enough to just vote and then go home and ignore politics until the next election.
Additionally, owning and operating an amphitheater is not an appropriate function of government. Asking citizens to pay $2.5 million for one in SPLOST IV is outrageous given our current economic conditions.
Lastly, The taxpayers of Henry County had no say whatsoever in the purchase of Tara Field Airport in 2011. The deal was struck by the previous administration behind closed doors under the cloak of Executive Session because they knew the public would be outraged. The sole reason for buying it was to reward cronies and donors of Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, State Senator Rick Jeffares, and ousted County Chairman BJ Mathis. Similar to Obamacare, this airport was shoved down our throats and we are now expected to indefinitely support it with our tax dollars. According to the 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (p.4) the airport took a nearly $16k loss last year. Based on its history from when Clayton County owned it, that trend will likely continue. Now, however, the BOC asking for an additional $1 million to throw down the airport sinkhole for a terminal building. If we don’t, you can forget about any new police or fire stations.
Not. One. More. Penny.
These are just a few examples of how the Board of Commissioners is extorting the taxpayers into paying for the public safety and road projects for which they have a duty to provide to us in the first place. Either cough up money for pork projects, they say, or Public Safety gets the axe. And, for good measure, all your road projects will be killed, too.
The Solution is to Downsize
But if SPLOST is defeated, you ask, how will we ever pay for the public safety and road projects that we really need? Well, here is one solution that could go a long way toward that goal.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley recently made the following post on her Facebook page. We should follow her lead:
I’ve compiled a list of just SOME of the wasteful and unneeded properties that Henry County currently owns. If the Board of Commissioners were to ask each department, including the Water Authority and the Development Authority, to submit a list to them of all leased and owned property currently in use, surely this list would grow.
(Click on the image above to view detailed information of this list in new browser tab or click here.)
How often have you cleaned out your clutter of unused stuff by having a garage sale or, say, listing them on eBay? It’s a good way to get cash to purchase things you do need without using your credit card. The same concept applies here. The County should sell assets we don’t use, don’t need, or cannot afford before we bond more debt to pay for new assets, public safety or otherwise.
We have a golf course, which no government should EVER own; two “parks” that have sat undeveloped for five years; a firing range which we could keep but sell the remainder of the land it sits on which we cannot afford to develop; an empty bank building for which we currently pay to heat, cool, and mow the lawns; and a half million dollar historic building in Locust Grove being leased to the convicted felon we bought it from and who’s running his private business out of it.
I’m guessing this list is just the beginning of unused or unnecessary assets which the County owns or leases. Selling these would go along way toward funding at least some of the public safety projects proposed in SPLOST IV.
Even if these properties were sold at their assessed values, which are normally much lower than the actual Market Value, we would have enough to pay for a new police station and at least two more fire stations.
The problem is that these are hard decisions to make and harder decisions to implement that would ultimately have political consequences. I doubt most of the current members of the Board of Commissioners would have the testicular fortitude to put themselves in that position, regardless of the benefit to the taxpayers.
In other words, the only way it will happen is if you make it happen.
Send a message to the Henry County Board of Commissioners that we require solutions from them that do not waste our tax dollars.
Vote NO on SPLOST IV this Tuesday, November 5th.
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