The Hartwell Sun, October 10, 2013 Letter to the Editor
Mike Buckel, The Hart County Proeprty Owners' Association
On November 5th the Hart County Board of Education (BoEd) will ask you to approve a continuation of the 1% sales tax for another 5 years starting in January 2015, known as SPLOST-4 to generate up to $18 Million. We have been paying this tax for nearly 15 years, which has generated over $27 Million. The citizens of Hart County have paid about 80 percentof this tax ($21 Million plus). It is a myth that visitors pay most of this tax. Of this, over $5 Million has been paid in interest and debt service charges. The exact wording of the referendum is included in this paper under Election Notices.
Under SPLOST-2 the Fine Arts Center was constructed and because of cost overruns it could not be paid off without SPLOST-3. SPLOST-3 was sold to you on the basis of a new gymnasium, renovating the old gymnasium and the promise to some in our farming community of construction of an Agricultural Science facility. None of these have been delivered. The admission was made in a public meeting that it was likely known there would not be enough money to build a new gym but it was included in the referendum to attract votes. A new gym and an Agricultural Science facility are again proposed under the new SPLOST. Refurbishment of the old gym promised under SPLOST-3 is not even included on the wish list for the upcoming SPLOST-4.
Please read carefully the wording of the new proposed SPLOST. There is mention of a lot of things, the wish list, including a new gymnasium, agricultural science facility and a career, technical, agricultural education (CTAE) facility, but the command word “SHALL” is absent from all projects on the list. The plan of the BoEd is to take out $12,250,000 of debt upon approval of the referendum. This will result in immediately incurring interest and other debt service charges a full year before any income is realized. With a quarter of a million dollars coming in every month there is no need for additional debt. The projects should/could be funded on a pay-as-you go basis.
•In what order will these projects be started? Priorities have not been established for implementing any of the projects on the wish list.
•How big are these facilities and how many students are to be accommodated, 5, 50, or 500? No needs analysis for any of these projects has been undertaken.
•What will they cost? No preliminary designs have been started let alone completed.
•Which of the wish list projects can realistically be accomplished? Certainly not all of them.
•What will it cost to maintain these new buildings? They struggle to maintain what they have now.
When this proposed SPLOST was first presented to the School Board, your Hart County Property Owners' Assoc.(HCPOA) took exception to the loose wording and lack of commitment to do anything with our money. The BoEd made a few changes in wording and HCPOA again objected because there were still no command words or list of priorities. Nevertheless, the Board approved the referendum for inclusion on the November 2013 ballot.
Your HCPOA has no problem with any specific project listed in the SPLOST, provided they are supported by comprehensive needs analyses, but we strongly object to the loose wording and lack of commitment, priorities, plans or budgets. We urge the community to reject this referendum in November. The BoEd will then have a year to generate a plan that includes; needs analysis, project priorities, valid cost estimates, and a schedule to complete each project to 75 percent completion before undertaking the next project. A one year delay will allow generation of a better proposal for inclusion on the November 2014 ballot. This delay will also save a year’s worth of interest that would be incurred if it were passed now. To be acceptable the revised proposal should include a budget defining what the money will be spent on and preclude the SPLOST being a slush fund. Vote no on SPLOST-4.