Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) proponent Dave Lamb, Griffin Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Dick Morrow and Griffin-Spalding County Board of Education Chairman Raymond Ray spoke at a forum sponsored by the Griffin National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Thursday evening.
Lamb, who serves as vice chairman of the committee organized to promote the SPLOST, said the economic engine that runs Griffin has problems. Prices for energy, food and other necessities are up, as are layoffs and bankruptcies. The unemployment rate is above the national average. Lamb said the workforce is changing — there are fewer textile jobs due to competition from countries like India, where the facilities are about equal and wages and environmental standards are lower.
“That’s the scary thing and part of what’s happening to us,” he said.
However, he said the public has the opportunity to help fix the area’s economic engine by voting for the six-year SPLOST on Nov. 4. He described the benefits voting for the SPLOST could bring, including the establishment of a new mixed-use development called “The Lakes at Green Valley” on the Big Shanty property.
The SPLOST will also include $7 million for a new facility for Griffin Technical College. Joyce Hollis asked why this building is needed.
Lamb said the building would be used to consolidate the existing classes, which are in several sites on-campus and even some sites off-campus.
Lamb also emphasized that the plan is not a tax increase but a continuation of the existing tax. The sales tax will remain at 7 percent if voters approve the SPLOST extension.
Morrow spoke about the redevelopment plans for the North Hill Street corridor. He said there is a redevelopment plan for the area but it is expensive. Some of the funds will be provided through the SPLOST but the rest will be provided through the establishment of a Tax Allocation District (TAD). As the area develops, property tax revenue raised in the area will stay in the area, enabling the area to be developed further. He said the TAD will remain in place for 25 years, making it impossible for politicians to break promises to assist the area after they no longer need the residents’ votes. He said the TAD would produce $27 million for the area and that three votes are needed for the area to be redeveloped — “yes” to the SPLOST, “yes” to the constitutional amendment allowing inclusion of school taxes in TADs and “yes” to giving the city and county redevelopment powers.
Ray then came to the front to discuss the proposed school tax exemptions for senior citizens.
“Taxes are a sensitive subject, ladies and gentlemen,” Ray said at the beginning of his speech.
Ray said he was there to present facts and not take any side.
He explained that the homestead exemption would be phased in over two years. In the first year, those 65 to 69 years of age would receive a $5,000 homestead exemption and receive the full $10,000 homestead exemption in the second year. Those 70 to 74 years of age would receive a $10,000 homestead exemption the first year and a $20,000 homestead exemption the second year, while those 75 or older would receive a $15,000 exemption the first year and a $30,000 homestead exemption the second.
He said the plan reduces the tax burden on senior citizens, many of whom are on a fixed income, but shifts the tax burden to younger taxpayers.
“That is not true tax relief, that’s a tax shift,” he said.
He said that although many senior citizens would welcome the change, others would oppose it, reasoning that others had paid for their education, and deciding they should pay for others.
“It’s a personal choice,” he said.
Republican incumbent Spalding County Sheriff Dee Stewart and Democratic challenger Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Wendell Beam had to leave the event early due to the attack on the Sheriff’s Office helicopter that evening.