Heiskell: Walker County SPLOST: Another view

Heiskell: Walker County SPLOST: Another view

November 5th, 2013 by Bebe Heiskell in Opinion Columns

• Editor's Note: This is a rebuttal to a commentary written by Mike Chambers, who was a campaign manager of a recent political foe of Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.

Mike Chambers' Nov. 2 commentary on the Walker County SPLOST did not tell a complete - or accurate - story.

Chambers claims the new SPLOST will equal 2.5 mils of property tax. In fact, it will generate 4.2 mils. Our present millage rate for county government is 4.7. While that is very low, most taxpayers would not want to see property tax nearly doubled to make up for lost SPLOST revenues if the referendum is defeated in today's vote.

Chambers also incorrectly described the proposed new industrial park. The proposed site is about 480 acres for $4.8 million.

The balance of $1.8 million of the $6.6 million proposal would be used for partial development of the site.

Walker County does not have two small tracts that are yet to be developed, as he claims. The industrial park next to the Walker County Maintenance Shop is full and has been for many years. The Rock Spring Business Park has a pending industrial tenant that will completely fill it up. It will also bring in up to 400 jobs within five years.

The proposed new industrial park already has prospective tenants, including three new manufacturers. That parcel of property is the only parcel between Atlanta and Cleveland large enough to locate a large industry and is a magnet for new tier one suppliers for Volkswagen.

The 1987 SPLOST that built the $1 million Walker County Civic Center was highly criticized at the time by similar naysayers. Yet, for more than 20 years with more than a million users, the Civic Center has been one of Walker County's most used and loved assets.

More recently, the Mountain Cove project has cost about twice as much, but it has 13 buildings and an RV Park on more than 285 acres and is being used for the same purposes and much more.

It has been very hard to maintain our low property tax rate. Chambers' claim that a penny sales tax would cost each of you $350 to $500 a year would mean that you would spend every penny you make; $35,000 to $50,000 or more a year on retail sales that require sales tax. There is no sales tax on mortgage payments, car payments, prescription drugs and many other things that people purchase every day.

Surely you know that state and federal governments require accountability for the taxes collected and spent in each city and county. Walker County is no exception. The 2007 SPLOST passed without a hitch with a projected $38 million.

When the crash hit in 2008, people stopped spending. Walker County felt this loss in the SPLOST collections. By law, the SPLOST funds can only be spent on the items listed in the printed referendum ballot.

The present SPLOST was not mismanaged as Chambers claims. It simply fell short of anticipated collections and therefore, all projects could not be completed as planned.

With reference to the LaFayette Library, Walker County has or will provide everything it pledged, and more.

The 2013 SPLOST is not for Bebe Heiskell. It is for the residents of Walker County. It will enhance your quality of life, support recreation, provide emergency shelters, upgrade emergency vehicles and equipment, pave roads, bring in tourism and keep your county with the second lowest property tax rate in Georgia.

Don't be deceived! Do what you know is right for your county, your family, your safety, your future jobs and the progress of your community for the next 50 years. Vote Yes for SPLOST in Walker County today.