November 6, 2013
Rome-Floyd County Voters deeply divided over SPLOST
Extremely close vote reflects lack of consensus on value of special tax.
By Rebeka Garcia, reporter
Lizzy Jones, editor
MOUNT BERRY – Squeaking by with but an 84-vote margin, Rome and Floyd County’s special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) shows that local voters were divided on the tax’s merits.
“The definition of ‘quality of life’ is different for each individual,” said Diane Coker, a member of the Rome/Floyd Citizens Against SPLOST 2013, who voted ‘No’ to the SPLOST. “I don't believe government has the right to decide what constitutes my quality of life.”
Residents of Rome, Cave Spring and Floyd County voted “yes” to a 5-year SPLOST proposal on Tuesday, Nov. 5. With 6,885 voting for and 6,801 voting against, the margin of victory was less than a percentage point. Turnout was much higher than expected at more than 32 percent.
The SPLOST is an optional 5-year 1 percentage point sales tax that is expected to raise $65 million to fund 28 capital outlay projects meant to benefit Floyd County, Rome and Cave Spring.
“SPLOST is going to help our economy,” said Jim Howell, member of the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee. “It will help create jobs, it will help keep property taxes from having to go up, and it will help us have a better place to live.”
One-third of SPLOST revenues will come from visitors to the area, which will minimize the burden of financing community projects from falling completely on Floyd County residents, according to County Commissioner Rhonda Wallace.
“It is the fairest possible way to raise revenue,” said Rev. Dr. David Campbell, member of the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee. “Everybody that spends money in the county owns a share of this.”
Coker, however, disagreed, citing the still-sputtering economy.
“This is definitely not the time to be raising taxes,” she said. “Economically, times are hard on individuals as well as small businesses."
Below are descriptions of the major projects greenlighted by voter passage of the new 5-year SPLOST:
Economic growth projects
1. Construction of the Tennis Center of Georgia on Berry College-donated property. SPLOST allocation: $11.4 million.
2. Purchase of industrial property for job creation and to fund land and infrastructure improvements for economic development. SPLOST allocation: $8 million.
Infrastructure improvement projects
1. Extending the runway at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. SPLOST allocation: $5.8 million.
2. Alleviating traffic at the congested intersection of Barron and Calhoun roads. SPLOST allocation: $130,000.
3. Upgrading roads for the Chulio Hills area. SPLOST allocation: $800,000.
4. Repairing and rehabilitating the Unity Point and South Broad Street Bridge. SPLOST allocation: $1.8 million.
5. Improving Burnett Ferry Road. SPLOST allocation: $2.7 million.
6. Paving and milling city streets. SPLOST allocation: $500,000.
7. Upgrading county-wide sewerage. SPLOST allocation: $1 million.
8. Repairing curbs, gutters, sidewalks and roads. SPLOST allocation: $1.4 million.
Public safety projects
1. Updating county public safety range for training of police, prison and sheriff public safety employees. Purchase of supplies and protective equipment for special operations forces and special weapons and tactics. SPLOST allocation: $900,000.
2. Upgrading Rome City Police training facilities. SPLOST allocation: $396,000.
3. Improving training facilities for the Rome and Floyd County Fire Department. Upgrading fire safety training trailer used to provide fire safety education programs at schools and in the community. Purchase of a tanker truck. SPLOST allocation: $750,000.
4. Replacing public works and public safety equipment, such as maintenance equipment and law enforcement vehicles, deferred due to budget cuts. SPLOST allocation: $1.4 million.
Building renovation projects
1. Upgrading the Forum Civic Center. SPLOST allocation: $1.4 million.
2. Modernizing the Rome City Auditorium. SPLOST allocation: $1.7 million.
3. Renovating buildings on Jackson Hill to develop a tourism center. SPLOST allocation: $200,000.
4. Incorporating a new visitor information center into the Rome Area History Museum. SPLOST allocation: $50,000.
5. Renovating Fannin Hall, which serves as the Cave Spring City Hall, to restore one of the oldest historical buildings in Floyd County. SPLOST allocation: $2.59 million.
6. Installing energy-efficient systems in county buildings, including those that house the police department and the health department. SPLOST allocation: $1.7 million.
1. Building a new animal control facility to replace current one. SPLOST allocation: $5.7 million.
2. Replacing electronically controlled security devices at the Floyd County Jail. SPLOST allocation: $1.9 million.
3. Expanding the jail’s medical and mental health facility. SPLOST allocation: $2.2 million.
4. Installing water source for the Everett Springs Community to replace well water. SPLOST allocation: $5.8 million.
5. Installing new playground units at 10 parks throughout Rome and Floyd County. SPLOST allocation: $1.1 million.
6. Upgrading Floyd County’s system of trails. SPLOST allocation: $1.8 million.
7. Upgrading the Rome-Floyd Recycling Center to enhance safety features and increase capacity. SPLOST allocation: $1.38 million.
8. Replacing case management software used by the Floyd County Clerk of Superior Court. SPLOST allocation: $500,000.
The 2013 SPLOST Voter’s Guide published by the Rome-Floyd Citizens for Progress describes the 28 items that will receive funding from SPLOST.
This map shows the locations of most of the major projects to be funded by the new SPLOST.