Want to take a closer look at the SPLOST 2020 project list for Athens, GA before voting?
Early voting: M-F, 8am-5pm from October 14 to November 1
Election day: November 5, 2019
A referendum on SPLOST 2020 is on the ballot for this November. Will voters approve the $314 million dollar project list? But first, what is SPLOST, and what’s on the project list this time? Let’s find out!
Our state government allows Georgia counties to levy sales taxes to help fund schools and local governments. Right now, our sales tax in Athens-Clarke County is set at 8%, and that breaks down like so:
4% goes to the state government, because of course it does, but Athens gets the remaining 4%:
1% of that is for general government expenses,
1% is for special projects for the school system,
1% is for transportation special projects
and the final 1% is for special projects in general.
SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and it was last authorized in 2010 for $195 million dollars. Nine years later, that money has just about all been collected, so that means it’s up for renewal. But what did we get for our $195 millon?
Among other important projects, it funded the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials or ChaRM, the new jail, (boos from the audience) uh.. a new fire station though too! Stay with me! New buses and bus stops, improvements to our bike and trail infrastructure and the new cooperative extension building. If we want to keep building these kinds of things for our community, we’ll need to re-approve SPLOST at the polls on November 5 with a different project list.
And that list has already been made – it was the result of some hard work by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee earlier this year. That’s 37 different projects for a total of $314 million dollars! This SPLOST is projected to run until 2031. By that time we’ll all be too old probably to enjoy any of the great stuff in there, but try to think of the children! Now, let’s take a closer look at the project list, shall we?
Project #2 is for promoting affordable housing in Athens with a $44 million dollar investment. $39 million of that will go towards an exciting redevelopment called the North Athens Project, and you can click the link that just popped up to learn more. The remaining $5 million will support affordable housing in other ways.
Project #3 is the Classic Center Arena. Alright, I know some of you aren’t big fans of this particular project and I’m not either. But I’m trying to make the best of it. I mean, I do think there’s an up-side here – not only will a downtown arena help Athens attract bigger-name acts from around the country, it’ll be revenue-booster, both for the local government and for local business, so we all like that, and to top it off, it will provide living wage jobs and have a childcare facility. So if this is the worst project on the list, I think we’re doing pretty good here. The price tag ended up at $34 million dollars.
The next group of projects include needed equipment for our fire fighters, a firestation replacement, vehicles for public safety agencies, general equipment and a new Recycling Center to be built out at the landfill. I’m lumping these together because they’re projects the local government seems likely to do anyway, even if we vote down SPLOST in November. So, vote no if that’s what you’re feeling, but be informed that we’ll be looking at a property tax increase if SPLOST fails. I’d rather all this be paid for out of sales taxes, because then UGA students and other visitors can help us pay. The more they pay, the less we have to.
Project #11 will provide almost $16 million dollars for renewable energy. This project was brought to us by the same group who successfully advocated for the goal of 100% renewable energy for Athens by 2035. The mayor and commission issued a resolution supporting this goal back in May, so our local government is on board! We just need the funding to make it happen, and here it is. After investing this $16 million dollars in clean power, we might not get all the way to 100%, but Athens will be a leader on fighting climate change nationwide. And to top it off, the power we’ll generate will save us $1.2 million dollars a year.
Project #22 is one of the coolest and potentially most ambitious projects of the whole list in my opinion. It’ll involve putting up cell towers on land the ACC government already owns, and implementing a public wifi network starting downtown — but potentially including all of Athens! This will be a high-speed broadband network that might help some people in the county get broadband access for the first time. This project might involve the creation of a new public utility, or it could ultimately be a public-private partnership.
Okay, the next project would set up a new library for the eastside! This is so badly needed – kids who live on the eastside right now have no library on their side of town, and it’s really difficult to get to the main library without a car. And there’s really no good meeting spots for community groups either on the eastside. The new library would be a great asset for all of Athens, especially the eastside.
This SPLOST will also finally fund a sidewalk on Vincent Drive connecting the Holland Sports Complex to the rest of the neighborhood there. It’s hard to know how important this project is unless you’ve ever tried to walk along Vincent Drive yourself. There’s a ditch along the side of the road, leaving only about a foot-wide safe zone to protect you from cars coming straight at you. It’s basically unwalkable, but how are kids supposed to get to that park? Or to the bus stop? People walk it anyway. Vincent Drive needs this sidewalk.
APN: “Do you guys walk this road a lot?”
APN: “Do you guys walk this road a lot?”
You can read about the twenty-six projects I didn’t have time to get into at SPLOST.com. Please like and share this video if you found it informative! Thanks for watching, and remember to vote for SPLOST on November 5th.