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SPLOST Forum Held in Cobb County

The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb.

Thanks for joining PATCH for the forum!! Scroll down to the bottom and read the play by play.

Lance - Those in support of SPLOST are quick to say everything will fall apart without it. But the commission's ability to slash from the original amount by millions. That proves it's not a SPLOST, that's a slush fund. Is this level of spending appropriate when 10 percent of Cobb residents are unemployed. Wouldn't a tax cut be a better idea?

Rose - A vote for SPLOST is a vote for your future. The commissioners are doing the best with what they have to work with. We have to do our part.

8:14 Closing Remarks

Lance - If this is the conservative way to go,  then I'm a liberal. Find out what the needs are first and then see how much it's going to cost. Don't have an amount and say we've got four years to spend it.

Rose - Everybody participates in SPLOST. It's a pay-as-you-go. You know exactly what you are paying for. There is a time period in which it ends. I don't see a more conservative method to fund projects.

Question -In the down economy...are there alternate funding sources instead of SPLOST?

Rose - There were 23 meetings about the projects. The projects in the SPLOST are what people said they wanted. You may not agree with all of it, but you don't throw it out because you don't believe in all of it.

Lance - Obviously there are some needs in this. But there are many more wants. It's just not a good use of your money. County shouldn't be competing with the private sector as far as recreation is concerned.

Question - Comment on needs vs wants.

Lance -We didn't have the SPLOST before 2005. Our Triple A bond rating was strong. The picture they are painting is just trying to scare you. If you expand facilities you have to expand for the upkeep.

Rose - The county will incur debt. Our facilities will deteriorate. It will affect your property values. Roads are depending on SPLOST passing.

Question - What do you believe will happen if the SPLOST vote fails.

Lance - We are in a SPLOST now. There has been a lot of money out there for a while. Saying if you don't pass the SPLOSt you are endangering lives is a stretch. We need to do a better job with what we have now.

Rose - SPLOST is going toward capital improvements. Some of it is for new construction. These are vital to the county to continue to attract people and business.

Question -Will SPLOST dollars be used for maintaining or for new improvements.

Lance - $2,400 a family for the four years..

Rose - A Penny on every dollar. I'd be willing to pay that to save a child's life.

Question - What is the estimated cost to each resident if SPLOST passes?

Rose - It was a study conducted by Auburn University. I think the number is actually higher.

Lance - How can you possibly know that.

Question - Where does the figure come from that 30 percent of the sales tax money comes from those outside Cobb?

Lance - I think it is a misconception that if we don't pass a SPLOSt then we will lose our Triple A bond rating. Not so. It's not gonna happen. There have been times when there was no SPLOST.

Rose - These bond rating companies look at how you are maintaining your facilities. If we don't pass this there will be deteriation in our facilities.

Question - How does Cobb County's bond rating  affected by SPLOST?

Rose - SPLOST brings jobs to Cobb County. Companies look at affordable living. They look at the best services for the lowest price.

Lance - You are taking jobs away from the private sector. You cut taxes to stimulate the economy.

7:30 Question: How do you believe that SPLOST affects jobs in Cobb County?

Lance - I don't believe that the milage rate will go up if the SPLOST doesn't pass. There are three commissioners up for election soon. Many counties have a SPLOST and their property taxes have gone up.

Rose - SPLOST has caused your property taxes to go down. SPLOST is the way to keep them down. You know exactly what your money is going to be spent on.

Question: Why do we always seem to have a SPLOST? What conditions would there be where there would be no SPLOST?

7:19   Lance - If you have a special election you have a lower turnout. They knew six years ago that the current SPLOST was going to expire in 2012.

7:15  Rose - there was a change in leadership going on.

7:14  Question, Why wasn't issue put on ballot last November?

7:13  Cheers from the crowd at "Ax the Tax"

7:10  Tax Payers Assoc....How do we go about meeting our needs without the SPLOST. Opposite side has tried to paint a gloomy picture if we don't pass it. Is the county doing everything it can to cut costs? There is no better time than now to cut taxes. This SPLOSt is full of wants that aren't necessary. Is replacing concession stands that work just fine the way they are, a want or a need? Is building a new skate park at Logan Farm a want or a need?  

7:04 Citizens for Cobbs Future....Splost is a necessity for the future of the Cobb. What brings people here are the wonderful parks and good roads. SPLOST is the best way to fund roads, parks and public safety. Most conservative way to fund these amenties because it is a pay-as-you-go way. You know exactly what projects you are voting for. Best way to pay for your services. People outside of Cobb will be paying for it too. If you don't vote for the SPLOST you will incur debt.

7 pm  Moderator is introducing representatives from both sides.

6:59  All 128 seats are full. And here we go.......

6:54  Commission Chairman Tim Lee is here.

6:48  A representative from both sides will be answering questions. Rose Wing of Citizens for Cobb’s Future, supports the SPLOST extension. Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb County Taxpayers Association, will give the opposing view.

6:40  The format will be as follows...both sides will get a chance to make some opening remarks. After that the moderator will take written questions from the audience. Both sides will then get a chance to respond. 

6:36  Lots of red and white "Ax the tax" signs.

6:31  The room is filling up fast.

PATCH is here live at the Cobb County government building for tonight’s SPLOST 2011 forum.

If approved by voters March 15, the special four-year tax would begin Jan. 1, 2012, just as the current collection period ends. The new tax would potentially generate $492 million for parks, recreation and transportation maintenance projects.

Arguments for passage of the SPLOST will be presented by Rose Wing of Citizens for Cobb’s Future, which supports the extension. Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb County Taxpayers Association, will give the opposing view.

The forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb, begins at 7 p.m.

Pam J February 27, 2011 at 11:50 PM
I have gone to the Senior Center (being 57 and all) and I guess I'm still too young to enjoy what they have. But it's a great place anyway. Since I moved in with my brother in Powder Springs a couple of months ago because I had to rent my house out because I've been unemployed for 14 months now, I live closer to the stores in Hiram than anywhere else. Their tax rate is 7%. I don't like that, but it would cost more in gas to go to a store in Cobb, so I do it. I guess I don't understand why the county just can't adjust the tax rate up to 6% permanently. How is that determined? Lived here all my life and ashamed to say I don't know. I guess we can live with 6%, even though 5% would have me driving to Cobb stores to spend money. Ah ha - I just figured out why I care. Those of us close to county lines may have a different perspective on this.
Pam J February 27, 2011 at 11:55 PM
If you have kids and you want to get them out of the house, then you will think that making our sports fields "gems" is a good idea. I see nothing wrong with backyards, but I guess you can't have organized sports there. They're going to put a new building at Jim R. Miller Park. Why? I understand replacing roofs and fixing plumbing problems, but new buildings are not needed. But I have talked myself into voting for the stupid SPLOST simply because I don't care to run into potholes or have a bridge fall as I am crossing it. And since they are blackmailing us by saying that if it doesn't pass our property taxes will go up, I guess that 1% extra every time I buy something is better than my house payment going up (again).
kathleen hurst February 28, 2011 at 05:16 PM
FYI, Cobb County property taxes are at their lowest level in more than 25 years, and are among the lowest in the country. Maybe you'd rather they raise the heck out of our property taxes rather than trying to spread it out & include non-homeowners with a SPLOST.
Marlene Mitchell February 28, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Kathleen, This brings me back to my first comments...WHY? Why are they at their lowest??? Are the banks NOT paying the taxes on the homes they have foreclosed on....my property taxes haven't gone down, my daughters didn't either and she bought their home below market...none of my friends are boasting about lowered property taxes either. There is something just not right here. I can see the wisdom in SPLOST if.....at this point, it only covers the needs of the county. Still no comment on why we always spend so much tax money on the "Special Election" for SPLOST when it should fit in a normal election. Can you enlighten me just a little on my concerns?
Pam J February 28, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Cobb County has always been a great place to live. Lower taxes and lower millage rates. Whoever holds the mortgages on the foreclosed homes has to pay the taxes. Every month, the county holds a sale of homes who are behind on their property tax bills. You can find them listed on the Marietta Daily Journal website. They also have a lot of the foreclosures that will be sold on the steps of the county courthouse tomorrow (first Tuesday of each month). When I looked yesterday, there were 1,013 foreclosures and 59 delinquent tax bill sales. That shows that the tax bills are being paid. It doesn't matter what the house sold for in foreclosure - the taxes are paid on the county's valuation. So if a house sells for $75,000 and the county has it valued at $130,000, the taxes will still be paid on the $130,000. And the county just picked "pockets" of homes to re-assess last year. I was not in that pocket, so I paid the same amount as the year before. I just want my homestead exemption discount back.
Pam J February 28, 2011 at 08:30 PM
You have a valid point. If the SPLOST does not pass and the property taxes go up, the non-homeowners win. They get 5% tax and nothing more and we (homeowners) get 5% plus who knows how much more on our property taxes. Like I said, it's blackmail.
Sarah Lemieux February 28, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Girls, girls!!! Come on!!! Wake up!!! The commissioners know that if they raise our property taxes they will not be re-elected!!! This one percent tax amounts to approximately $300-400.00 per year for a family of four. It is charged on everything including your utilities. Do you really think your property taxes would go any higher than that? Think of all the people who will shop here at the 5% tax rate. It will definitely grow our economy and there will be more jobs available especially in retail. This is the usual scare tactic... Don't panic!! That's exactly their mode of operation... The March special election date at the cost of $400,000-500,000 is timed to result in low voter turn-out in hopes of sliding it through as they've done previously. How many repairs, upgrades and renovations could be done with this amount of wasted taxpayer dollars?? The SPLOST votes should be taken during the general elections in which voter turnout is highest and most representative. The Commission admitted in a public hearing that this SPLOST is a way to cover past bad decisions made by the previous Commission of which most of them were part of. The SPLOST amount is too large and too long. The project lists have been predicated upon what to spend $492 million and not for what is actually needed. Wouldn't you rather have that extra money for things that you and your family need...$300-400.00? Special interest groups are working hard to get this SPLOST money passed again.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Since you're asking, the answer is NO...I spend that much (or more) for my children to take swim classes at the wonderful aquatic center (at HALF the cost of the YMCA)gymnastics at the center in Marietta (again at half the cost) not to mention baseball, basketball & football over the years! That has been money well spent and I intend to fight to keep it in place. I don't buy your property tax argument either! Sure maybe an increase in property taxes would cost some commissioners there jobs BUT with no SPLOST the "other guy" might talk about lowering them, but don't bet on it happening. I don't think struggling families want to see mortgage payments go UP while they're not bringing as much in...$300 spread out over a year is less than $1 a day...you're sticking it to ROADS, PARKS, SENIOR CENTERS and PUBLIC FACILITIES for less than ONE DOLLAR a day...really? You've got to be kidding right???
Pam J March 01, 2011 at 01:23 AM
I like your point about more people shopping in the county if the tax rate is 5%. I'm closer to the major stores in Hiram (Paulding County) where the tax rate is 7%. I shop there because it would be more gas to shop at the same stores in Cobb. If our tax rate drops to 5%, I will be spending all my money in Cobb. And if they want to raise the millage rate on property tax, then hopefully it wouldn't be by much and hopefully we'll get our homestead exemption deduction back. My house payment is still reasonable (even though I am renting it out), so even if it goes up a little, that would be okay. Even though the original SPLOST plan was for six years, they eventually lowered it to four, which is still too much. There's a happy medium there somewhere. We just haven't found it.
Amy Barnes March 01, 2011 at 02:20 AM
The SPLOST has been mis-spent several times in the past. Where are those school laptops, by the way? Why do we STILL have unfinished SPLOST projects from 2005? Why are some of the CURRENT PROJECTS declared as WONT BE FINISHED? Stop letting kleptocrats masquerade as philanthropists! (quote from a Libertarian candidate for office)
Amy Barnes March 01, 2011 at 02:32 AM
The above are all arguments I've heard from anti-SPLOST. It is *not* the penny on the dollar I resent - the financing, to me, is great! I agree with pro-SPLOSTers on that model. My problem arrives when I am forced to stand in the middle of a road and direct traffic around a scene, and work to back each car out because my neighbor is dying from his injuries because SPLOST projects that have divided our roads did NOT INCLUDE SAFETY MEASURES like road shoulders. I have helped to save lives as a first responder to four accidents where injuries may have been aggravated by EMS delays as a result of SPLOST construction of road dividers. The victims waited about 5 minutes longer - enough time for a brain to swell from bleeding and enough time to create fatalities. Austell Road is *illegal* in some areas because of SPLOST. These divided roads are supposed to have safety shoulders so that traffic can pull to the side to allow EMS access. A SPLOST project that was designed / decided upon 7 years before I moved in sealed off direct access to my house, so that my property values plummeted, my easement access rights purchased with the property are violated each day, I am given ZERO compensation, Our businesses are dying from access restrictions. I was not notified of the Windy Hill - MacLand Connector, and commissioners swore "affected residents were notified." Bull. I wasn't notified, nor compensated for my loss of quiet enjoyment & access rights violations.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 02:34 AM
I hate to keep pointing this out but for LESS than one dollar a day per year (based on the numbers the anit-SPLOTS folks keep throwing around) that is MORE than worth it if even half the projects are completed! @ Pam, the way gas keeps going up I'd stick to the stores closest to home and I doubt during anyone's busy life they are going to choose to go out of their way to shop to save a penny on the dollar! I think you'd be much better off saving the gas and please don't count of property taxes remaining low or homestead exemptions returning. My mother will be supporting SPLOTS because she supports her grandkids growing up in a great community BUT she said most of the complain is coming from older people who already have VERY low property taxes...DO NOT LET PEOPLE WHO ALREADY KNOW THAT EITHER NOW OR VERY SOON THEY WONT CARE WHAT OUR PROPERTY TAXES ARE BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEIRS WILL BE LOW!!! Don't believe the hype, be sure the people your taking advice from will be paying the same property tax rate as you...same skin in the game.
Pam J March 01, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Amy, the SPLOST does not help schools. We pay school taxes with our property taxes to help that. And they have until the end of the year to complete the projects from the last SPLOST. And if they have money left over they can continue to work on what was planned. And yes, every party criticizes the other parties. Give it a rest.
Sarah Lemieux March 01, 2011 at 02:44 AM
For your information our county is suffering from higher unemployment than the national average. Discontinuing the SPLOST until the 2012 election would provide a much needed tax break for struggling citizens. It would also give our commissioners more time to evaluate our needs instead of their wants. Numerous businesses ( some in other states..Vulcan Concrete of Al for one) profit from this tax and spend tens of thousands on the promotion because they know they will reap huge benefits. If you're interested in knowing who the major investors were in 2005, go to www.votenomarch15.com. Click on proponents of the SPLOST and become informed. There are design & engineering firms, Paving Companies, Road Construction, Sidewalk contractors, construction equipment firms and landscaping firms to name a few. There's gasoline tax collected for upkeep of many of our roads, our parks are in great shape for the most part, the Senior Centers are the best and the libraries have the latest technology. If you want better parks and more equipment for your children, then perhaps you can make a nice contribution to the Parks and Recreation Service. No one's sticking anyone ... other than the Commissioners to the taxpayers. It just goes to show you that if the money's there, they're going to find a way to spend it. Maybe you don't have to curtail your spending habits but most of us do. Gasoline is skyrocketing which increases the cost of everything.
Pam J March 01, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Kim, dear, it is SPLOST, not SPLOTS. At first I thought you were talking about a completely different thing! And one dollar a day is a lot to some people. Hopefully I will have a job by the time the new SPLOST starts (next year), so it will be better. But if I get approved for another year of unemployment in April, then trust me, one dollar a day ($30 or $31 a month) is a lot. For people who are living on social security that is a lot. In fact, if I was getting $30 or $31 more a month now, it would be like winning the lottery. One dollar a day means different things to different people. Accept that everybody looks at things differently depending on their circumstances. I have worked since I was 18. I should not be unemployed and not able to find a job at age 57. So every single dollar matters to me.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 02:54 AM
@ Sarah I am not a "big business" or connected in anyway...just a Cobb County Mom BUT even I have to shake my head at your logic. So what you're saying is we have high unemployment in Cobb (mostly in construction) BUT you want to end the very construction projects that would put residents to work because it MIGHT cost you a dollar a day?? Hmmm I'm not really following that argument; I guess if we put all the construction companies, sidewalk makes and brick layers our of business our unemployment rate would go down??? You don't care about unemployment or Cobb County, you'd let the good of YOU out weight the good of the MANY...so sad!!
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:09 AM
@Pam what do you do for a living? I'm in HR and if you've been looking for something and I can help I'd be happy to try
Pam J March 01, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Thanks Kim! I was an administrative assistant in the tax department of a real estate investment and management firm for the last six years of my employment and I have 14 years experience with personal property tax. I didn't do the convential admin work, so I am apparently not qualified for a lot of the jobs out there. Not to mention I am older!
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Hmmmm, let me think about that one I wish there was a way to trade info that didn't leave our number or e-mail out for a thousand people...LOL
Marlene Mitchell March 01, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Kim Wow!! Take a breath or two. WE ALL HAVE A STAKE IN COBB COUNTY...OLD, YOUNG, ARROGANT OR STUPID. Not just your mother. SPLOST is being asked to be a better steward of OUR money. No more "special elections" costing us $400,000.00 when it can be properly voted on in a general election. No more "New" items, at this time. It would be nice to complete what they have started or show cause why.....projects left unfinished are wasting money. You may not mind if half the projects are completed or not, but I do. If SPLOST fails it isn't because of people like me or my aging MOM. It's because the commissioners won't be realistic in these hard times. We all have to reign in our "wants", times are tough and we are tired of being taxed for things we can do without for a while. This isn't a hard concept.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Also, Pam there is nothing wrong with being "older" many employers see that as dependable and responsible!
Sarah Lemieux March 01, 2011 at 03:25 AM
I do care about unemployment. Several friends were laid off within the past year with no prospects of employment. In the past, I've been a small business owner with 5 employees in Cobb County. Have reared two respectable and educated children, who participated in all that you've mentioned. I have been out in the real world, in the line of fire. You apparently have had the privilege of being a stay at home mom and rearing your children, which is wonderful. In case you didn't notice or didn't live in the area, the construction workers were mostly illegals and some from out of state... They were not the taxpayers of Cobb County who got most of those jobs from the last SPLOST. We don't need sidewalks on busy streets or a lot of the other nonsense they've proposed. Perhaps you should spend some of this time with your family that you're spending on the computer. And by the way, I still work, am involved in my community and live in the real world. I've said my piece and you can jump up and down the rest of the night. I know what I'm talking about and you are just making assumptions and being totally off the wall.. This is a gravy train for you if you moved here from the North East... We do have the best for the least and that's the gospel!!!
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:28 AM
@ Marlene...I agree the special election is bone headed but I'm sure politicians being how they tend to be realize as stated by a previous comment that it might not pass, and it needs to pass. Also, as I stated previously those "special interest groups" are the businesses that can put people to work and that pay sales taxes and will be paying that extra penny. I just think it's a pipe dream to think property taxes will not go up, and in regards to the comment about Mom's taxes they are very low (because she is a Senior) so other than the benefits to her Grandkids she wouldn't care one way or the other if property taxes go up. She does use the Senior Center and takes water aerobics at the Aquatic Center too, and she did say most of the complaints she's heard are from older citizens whose property taxes (just like hers) would not rise much if SPLOST didn't pass. It's families like mine, that still have YEARS & YEARS to go, that would be hurt the most.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:43 AM
Sarah...My husband owns a company (and pays taxes and employees) and if you saw my comment to Pam I do happen to also have a job with one child in college three in Cobb schools. I have lived in Cobb ALL my life, so I've certainly been around. Your comment about MOSTLY illegals and out of state workers in just bunk ...but lets assume you're right. The illegal or out of state workers or aliens from Mars will still stay here, shop here and pay the 6% sales tax. This will bring money to business and support all those projects you don't agree with but I do :) Ok I don't agree with all of them of course because that isn't ever going to happen under any plan. We just have to remember that just because a project doesn't directly effect you doesn't mean it isn't helpful to someone else. There are projects all overt the county that I'll never even see, but hopefully they help other folks. PS...my kids are in bed, after homework and dinner, but I appreciate your concern
Marlene Mitchell March 01, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Kim, Nothing like giving the green light to our politicians by okaying their high handed way of passing a new tax...there is a right and a wrong way to do this. What morals are you teaching your kids?...or what are they learning from you on honesty if this is okay by your standards. The end justifies the means? Most of us are very tired of the politicians still trying to spend our money like we still got it.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 03:52 AM
There is nothing ILLEGIAL OR IMORAL about a special election, they're held all the time. The election is all over the news and papers so they're not running a scam or anything!! Good grief it's not immoral to position yourself to win. Now if you do that by cheating or covering something up that's different, but you cant say a kid who bunts or steals 3rd base is cheating because he set himself up to win. This election has been heavily promoted by both sides and anyone even mildly interested cant turn out either on the 15th or I believe early voting is already underway.
Sarah Lemieux March 01, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Kim, I've seen you in action and you're an older woman with an agenda. What it is, I don't know but you certainly have one. You're over the top with this!!! Marlene, Pam and I have spoken the truth and you don't seem to be able to deal with that. How much are you planning to earn if this SPLOST is passed? There's something in it for you, otherwise you wouldn't be so adamant and determined in supporting the way this has been done!!! Please...don't tell me you have young children unless they're adopted. Kim is your pseudonym!! We're all intelligent adults capable of making our own decisions. I totally agree with Marlene!! It's time we stop all this bickering. We will have no choice but to support the decision of the taxpayers on March 15th.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 02:22 PM
My name IS Kim, my youngest is 8 and oldest in college, work in HR, in my mid 4o's (so maybe "older") & my husband owns a small consulting company...we will make zero financially but we hope to enjoy several projects on the list. Because I do not agree with you doesn't mean I'm getting a kick back...what a silly thing to say!
Pam J March 01, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Sarah, I appreciate the fact that you are siding with me, but I think you may have stepped over the line in criticizing Kim the way you did. We all have different ideas. You have to do the research and decide if the SPLOST is going to help you personally. If you have kids, then you will agree that having places for them to "recreate" will be good. I don't have kids, but I also would like to drive on smooth roads and know that I will make it across a bridge safely. No plan will be perfect for everybody. Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to take some things you don't.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 04:50 PM
@ Pam thank you & I just feel passionate about continued improvements to our county...and that's my only agenda! If the SPLOST fails then I guess all we can do is wait, but I'm not going to riot or anything. I know conversation concerning our kids (balanced schedule) and this bill have a very strong pull, but when they fail (balanced calendar) I accept the outcome and work for change! Thanks everyone for enduring my strong opinions...my husbands had to for it for 25 years ;)

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