LETTER TO EDITOR: Reasons for voting against SPLOST

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

Early voting has begun. I have seen only positive points of view concerning the SPLOST vote in our local paper, and they have been from those either working for, or those closely tied to, one of our local government entities in some way. I would like to offer a few reasons to not vote yet another SPLOST. For the most part, our local government entities have been anything but good stewards of SPLOST funds and other tax dollars.

For example, they are spending more than $29 million for a walking trail referred to as The Thread. Only a very, very small percentage of our population will utilize The Thread. A walking trail is not an essential function of government. Also, not included in the $29 million cost is the fact that the taxpayers who are on any of LaGrange’s utilities will be paying for the city to “maintain” The Thread now and in the future. There have already been criminal safety concerns to come up on the walking trail, so I am sure that we will have additional costs for security measures.

They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for three Splash Pads that are only used by a paltry handful of children and only during the warmer months. I have gone by the one just off the parkway many times during the summer months on my way to the post office or Home Depot and have seen the Splash Pad being used on only three occasions. Two times there were some children having fun playing in the water. The other time I saw only a homeless person washing his hair in the Splash Pad. Not only are our three Splash Pads’ utilization extremely low, but like the Thread, only a very scant fraction of our population will ever use them. Providing Splash Pads is not a function of government, and there has been no mention by anyone about all the maintenance costs involved in the upkeep that we have to pay for.

SPLOST dollars were spent on the Sweetland Amphitheater. Although used by considerably more folks than either The Thread or the Splash Pads, a lot of the attendees are from out of town, and even if they were not, again the utilization by our local population is minimum at best. The city of LaGrange and the county brought in thousands of dump truck loads of soil and spent no telling how many man hours of labor filling in dirt, planting trees and bushes, laying sod, pressure washing sidewalks, etc. And neither entity could tell me how much “in kind” costs were involved. And the city is continuing to maintain Sweetland with your tax dollars.

And now the downtown hotel; no one will tell me how many dump truck loads of soil were hauled in by government trucks and employees. Nor can they give you a solid cost of all the “in kind” costs that we have paid for. And the city of LaGrange has agreed to maintain the facade as well as the lobby of the hotel at our expense! I know that the hotel is not a SPLOST project perse, but SPLOST dollars allow other tax dollars to be spent in other areas. How many of our long-time businesses has the city volunteered to help out with the cost of expansion, maintenance or landscaping?

Our school system has used SPLOST dollars to close down neighborhood schools and replace them with giant mega-schools, dumping more students on fewer teachers. And they built brand new gyms. And the only thing that we have to show for it is lower teacher morale and lower academic achievement.

These are just a few examples that point out that our local elected leaders have done a poor job of being good stewards of our hard earned tax dollars. And do not forget all the folks who can barely afford the expenses that they currently have; they are our citizens who suffer the most. I hope that our voters are smart enough to vote against this upcoming SPLOST. Do you remember all the threats at the last SPLOST that “if you don’t vote for this SPLOST, we may have to raise your property taxes?” Do you also remember that as soon as that SPLOST was approved that your county commissioners raised the millage rate? I do. Don’t fall for their lies yet again. Another lie, “SPLOST money cannot be used to pay for salaries,” but they fail to tell you that SPLOST dollars free up other dollars that can be used to pay for salaries and other things.

Tommy Callaway