March 4, 2012 

Residents of Houston and Peach counties are being asked to vote Tuesday on whether they would like to continue a special purpose location option sales tax. Here’s the skinny on SPLOSTs.

What is a SPLOST?

It stands for special purpose local option sales tax. It’s a 1 percent sales tax for major capital improvements, such as road projects, new buildings and public safety equipment. It cannot be used for daily operating costs.

Who says if there will be a SPLOST?

County officials ask for it, and voters say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

How long does a SPLOST last?

If the incorporated cities agree to join the county in asking for the sales tax, the SPLOST lasts six years. If they don’t, the tax is only on sales in businesses in the unincorporated areas and lasts five years.

What if voters want certain projects but not others?

If voters wanted to change the projects list, they would have needed to speak up during the public hearings. Now it’s an all or nothing deal. If voters say ‘yes’ to the SPLOST referendum, all of the projects on the list must be completed.

What does a 1-percent sales tax look like?

A good way to determine sales tax is to buy any $1 item. In Houston and Peach counties, that item would cost $1.07 after sales tax; therefore, every dollar you spend comes with an additional seven cents in sales tax.

What does sales tax pay for in Houston and Peach counties?

The state retains 4 percent. Another 1 percent sales tax is a local option sales tax (LOST). In Houston County, the LOST supplements Board of Education taxes. In Peach County, it’s divided among the three governments. Both Boards of Education get a 1 percent education SPLOST (E-SPLOST). And, of course, there’s the 1-percent SPLOST.

How does sales tax compare around the state?

Seven percent seems standard around the state, though the splits may be a bit different. For example, Peach County’s officials decide every 10 years how their LOST will be distributed to the three governments.

Is this a new tax for Houston or Peach?

No. The SPLOSTs on both ballots are renewals of existing taxes. If voters approve them, the overall sales taxes will remain at 7 percent.

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