TSPLOST election day less than 2 weeks away. What's the plan?
Roughly 300 voters cast their ballots during the first week of early voting at the Carrington Woods government annex, with election day now just 11 days away.
For the large majority of voters (unless you live in District 4 in the city), there will be exactly one item on the ballot, and that one item is a TSPLOST referendum, which would generate roughly $45 million over the next five years, with all money earmarked for road repairs and refurbishings.
If passed by voters, the local sales tax would rise from 7-cents-on-the-dollar to 8.
The last day of early voting is Friday, Nov. 3. Here is the early voting schedule between now and then:
• Today through Friday, Oct. 27 – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 28 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Monday, Oct. 30 through Friday, Nov. 3 – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• (no early voting Saturday, Nov. 4)
Meanwhile, the last day to mail in absentee ballots is tomorrow, while absentee ballots can be placed in the "drop box" at the Carrington Woods annex up until 7 p.m. on election day.
County Manager Carlos Tobar and the county commissioners currently are in campaign mode. Tobar recently made his pitch at a recent Rotary meeting, while also speaking with a WMAZ/Channel 13 reporter.
"We have the list of roads, roughly 140 miles worth of roads, that will be re-surfaced in a five-year period," Tobar said.
Tobar and the county commissioners are touting that all TSPLOST collections will go directly towards road repairs, and they even put out a list...
If passed by voters, the county government would receive 65 percent of the TSPLOST revenue and the city government 35. According to City Manager Hank Griffeth, City Hall also will use all TSPLOST revenue on road repairs.
"We are commuting 100 percent of the city's share of collections on resurfacing based on the newly rated list," according to Griffeth.
That "list," added Griffeth, recently was completed by the city's engineer, and Griffeth said that the list will be released on Monday.
City and county leaders are hoping that the third time is a charm. The most recent local TSPLOST referendum, held back in November 2018, remains the only local SPLOST vote of any sort ever to be rejected by voters, with SPLOST referendums dating all the way back to 1990. That referendum was rejected by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. The most "no" votes in November 2018 came from Milledgeville/Baldwin County's more rural precincts, despite the fact that the bulk of TSPLOST money was earmarked for county roads. The Coopers precinct was 59 percent against, the Scotsboro precinct was 58 percent against, while both Meriwether and East Baldwin were 56 percent against.
Interestingly, a regional TSPLOST referendum was held earlier in 2018, and Baldwin County voters actually voted in favor of the regional TSPLOST, 2,715 to 2,139. However, the regional TSPLOST referendum failed across the region and wasn't as popular in other nearby counties.
So, what changed between May 2018 and November 2018, when local voters flipped from "yes" to "no" on the TSPLOST issue? Well, many local residents were caught off guard upon receiving their property tax bills in September, the month prior. Included on each bill was a $32-per-parcel tax marked for "indigent care" and Navicent Health Baldwin County. The county commissioners received an earful, and the indigent care tax generally was not well received. The timing of the property tax bills (mailed out in September) could not have been much worse for TSPLOST proponents, and it could be argued that many property owners exacted their revenge at the polls that November.