Group forms to sell Houston SPLOST

wcrenshaw@macon.comJanuary 2, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- The push is on for the passage of a proposed Houston County special purpose local option sales tax.

With a referendum on extending the SPLOST just more than three months away, a group has been formed to promote the penny tax.

Co-chair Jimmy Autry said paperwork has been filed with the Secretary of State’s Office to create the group, called Citizens for a Greater Houston County. The other co-chair is Danny Carpenter, former Houston County schools superintendent.

Autry said he is confident the referendum will pass. It will be held March 6 in conjunction with the Republican presidential primary so he is expecting a good turnout.

“There is much to love about the SPLOST,” he said. “I am hoping people are going to see there are plenty of things to like about the SPLOST.”

The tax is expected to raise the $155 million from October 2012 to September 2018. It would pay for road widening, a new Centerville police department facility, a new recreation facility in Warner Robins and numerous other projects throughout the county. It also commits $7 million to buy up homes north of Robins Air Force Base, which officials say is needed to resolve the encroachment issue and protect jobs at the base. A full listing of the proposed projects can be found on the county’s website, houstoncountyga.com.

Autry said he is not aware of any organized opposition, which is usually a key factor when sales tax referendums are defeated.

The group is making brochures and planning a mass mailing, but first it must raise the necessary donations. All of its spending and fundraising has to be reported to the Secretary of State’s Office.

They also expect to do a series of public presentations to civic clubs and any other group willing to listen. Autry, vice president of Flint Energies, was involved with the group that promoted the Houston County schools sales tax referendum, which passed overwhelmingly in November. That group did more than 60 public presentations, he said.

Citizens for a Greater Houston County has started a website, houstoncountysplost.com, and has posted information about the tax. Any group that would like to book a presentation can do so at the site.

Among the key selling points on the site’s home page are that the tax is an extension of the 2006 SPLOST, and would not change the current 7-percent sales tax in the county.

While some projects in the 2006 SPLOST are yet to be finished, Autry noted the money is still coming in, and the tax won’t end until October.

He said local governments have done what they promised with the 2006 sales tax, which was largely focused on road projects.

“One of the big pitches for us is great stewards,” Autry said. “People have been able to see the results.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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