Dade County voters reject higher sales tax [photos]

Dade County voters reject higher sales tax [photos]

May 22nd, 2018 by Emmett Gienapp in Breaking News

Voters cast their ballots at the Chickamauga Civic Center on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Chickamauga, Ga. Turnout was steady at the polling place for Georgia's Tuesday primary election.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

This story was updated May 22, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.

Gallery: Georgians vote in primary elections

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Voters in Dade County again rejected a 1 percent sales tax increase that had been earmarked for roads, bridges and other transportation projects across the county.

County officials put the transportation special purpose local option sales tax (T-SPLOST) on the ballot earlier this year, saying it could allow them to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars currently budgeted for transportation projects. The final vote tally was 1,505 against the tax, 1,079 for it.

The hope, as explained by Dade County Executive Ted Rumley, was that revenue generated by people traveling through the county and spending money at local businesses would give the budget enough room to drive down property taxes.

"Everyone pays it," he said. "Anyone who comes through the county and spends that dollar, whether it's from Chicago or Florida, they would be paying for the roads. Not our county."

The county will split the additional revenue with the city of Trenton, but officials are unsure how much that will end up being. Dade County Chief Financial Officer Don Townsend previously projected a windfall of around $9 million, but that might not be the case. That projection is similar to the total brought in from a separate 1 percent sales tax, but Georgia law does not allow governments to collect T-SPLOST money at gas pumps, a major chunk of potential sales.

Tuesday's election was the second time Dade County residents have voted on this particular tax in the last year. Voters also rejected it in November, but Rumley said it had a better chance to pass this time because turnout was so low in the fall — just over 1,000 people voted.

The difference, he said, was that the tax was the only issue on the ballot last year, but this time there were a bevy of other races driving voters to the polls.

"We just had a very low turnout and some people didn't even know the county was voting. They thought it was just the city," he said. "But it's a win-win for anyone who owns property in Dade County and pays taxes."

Some Dade County residents had their doubts and were frustrated it was back on the table. A public discussion on the contentious topic devolved into a shouting match between a voter and a county commissioner in February.

Ron Cloud, another voter, said he voted against it this time "just like [he] did last year." He said he's been told it could cut property taxes, but promises from elected officials have fallen flat before.

"It's just another way of getting ripped off," he said. "They never spend the money on what they say they're going to."

On the other hand, Joe Stevens said he was all for it.

"My thought is, if we've got people coming through, we may as well see some return on that," he said. "I don't know how many people drive on that interstate every day, but it ain't nothing."

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.


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