With Bibb County voters deciding the fate of a new special purpose local option sales tax this summer, an anti-SPLOST campaign is beginning to take root.
Macon attorney Calder Pinkston says he hopes to drum up a movement against the proposed tax. The fledgling group’s first meeting is tonight at his law office on Vineville Avenue. Pinkston said he wants to keep the meeting small in the group’s early, organizational stages.
“I think there’s a small group of us,” Pinkston said Tuesday. “This SPLOST is not sensible for our community. The word of mouth is expanding. People are starting to volunteer.”
Pinkston said he’s already thought of a motto: “This cent doesn’t make sense.”
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“(Interest) is growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “I’ve gotten e-mails and dozens of phone calls.”
The proposed SPLOST, to be decided at the polls July 20, would raise about $189 million for the county to build a new courthouse, improve recreation opportunities and fix stormwater drainage for county residents.
While Pinkston said he agrees with some of the measures the SPLOST would address, he thinks county leaders haven’t allowed for any community input into the process.
In addition, he said, it’s a poor time for another tax, especially given the state of the economy. He also thinks the money the SPLOST would raise wouldn’t be enough to adequately address the projects.
“No project is getting the funding that is needed,” he said. “There’s not enough money for recreation or storm drainage, and they’re spending too much on the courthouse. In this economy, it doesn’t make sense.”
Pinkston said the current courthouse could be improved at a much cheaper cost than the $83 million Bibb County commissioners want to spend on a new courthouse.
Commissioner Joe Allen said he hadn’t heard of this anti-SPLOST movement but said residents would be getting a lot more than a single courthouse with the money.
“People think it’s just a courthouse, but we’re building a judicial center,” he said. “We’re building a juvenile center near (the Department of Family and Children Services office). We’re going to have a parking deck with free parking for people who have jury duty. We’re not talking about one building.”
Commissioner Elmo Richardson said he also hadn’t heard of an organized movement against the SPLOST, but he said it’s common for people to protest a new tax.
“I haven’t heard a word about (an organized opposition group),” he said. “In my experience, that sort of thing happens and some groups organize to oppose something like this. Any time you have a new tax, there’s going to be opposition. You don’t know to what extent.”
Pinkston said the tax amounts to a double tax for Bibb County residents who live in the city of Macon. He noted that Mayor Robert Reichert and the majority of City Council are “standing up for the city voters” by pulling out of the SPLOST process after the city and county failed to reach a compromise on a new service delivery agreement.
“This is not a good deal for the community,” Pinkston said. “It’s not being done the right way. ... We’re still in a recession. No one has seen signs of a recovery yet.”
The county held a forum two weeks ago for the community to discuss the SPLOST and just 20 people attended.
Richardson and Allen remain optimistic that voters will approve the SPLOST next month.
“I certainly hope so,” Richardson said. “This is something that is really good for our community. I certainly hope people would vote for it. It’s going to fund the capital needs of the community.”
Pinkston said anyone interested in finding out more information about the anti-SPLOST effort should call his office at (478) 476-0730.
Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report.