Voting day is here. Here's a prepper and a preview.
All polling places in Milledgeville and Baldwin County will open to voters at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Aside from voters in one sliver of Milledgeville, where there's a GMC Board of Trustees race, the ballot will have a mere one item on it, and that one item is a TPLOST referendum. If approved by voters, the new penny-on-the-dollar sales tax would generate an estimated $45 million over the next five years for local road projects, with the exception of state highways, which are the responsibility of the Georgia Department of Transportation. In the process, the local sales tax rate would rise from seven cents to eight cents.
A total of 1,001 local voters took part in early voting at the new Carrington Woods annex, with early voting wrapping up last Friday. Those 1,001 early votes are a paltry number relative to recent elections. For example, on the very first day of early voting for the 2022 general election, there were more than 1,200 votes recorded. Voter turnout presumably will be low for this election, and a total of 2,000 "yes" votes or 2,000 "no" votes might just decide the whole thing, one way or the other.
The Board of Registrars strongly encourages voters not to show up to the Carrington Woods annex on Tuesday to try and vote. All voting on Tuesday must take place at each voter's designated precinct, and the polling place at the annex will not be open. In other words, as early voting has become increasingly popular, more and more people think that they can vote at the annex on election day, which they can't.
In terms of absentee ballots, the mailing deadline has elapsed, and any absentee ballots mailed out on election day or afterward will not be counted. Also, the absentee ballot "drop box" will be closed on Tuesday, although people can still drop off absentee ballots at the Board of Registrars office at the annex until 7 p.m. Tuesday.
If passed, all TSPLOST revenue would be divvied between the county commission and the Milledgeville City Council. The county government recently released its list of "county roads" that would benefit from TSPOST, hitting many of the high notes, like Lake Laurel Road and Log Cabin Road. County Manager Carlos Tobar said that the goal is either to resurface every road on the list and in some cases repair the road base prior to resurfacing.
"You have to make sure that the base is solid before you resurface," he said.
Below is the list of county roads...
It's an ambitious list, but Tobar said that he's "pretty confident" that every road on the list can be completed within the five-year timeframe. Tobar added that the county also would utilize Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant (LMIG) money from the state, which is basically a 50-50 match from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
So, which roads on the list would be fixed first? If TSPLOST passes, Tobar said that the county commissioners will "prioritize" the list. Tobar added that it likely would be "prioritized" by some combination of the most traveled roads and the roads most in need of repair.
THE "CITY" LIST
CLICK HERE to view City Hall's most recent "street resurfacing ratings" list, which was compiled by an engineer and recently released to the public. It's an especially long list (11 pages worth), and there's a lot to read. While perusing, keep in mind that the higher the "rating number," the sooner that that stretch of road would be repaired.
The big challenge faced by the City Council and Board of Commissioners is how to convince people to vote yes, which hasn't always been easy. The most recent local TSPLOST referendum, held back in November 2018, remains the only SPLOST vote in Baldwin County history to be rejected by voters, which dates 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 many of 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.