What possible argument is there for voting no on the Nov. 5 2020 SPLOST referendum?
Especially given it is a fairly painless tax paid for by people who spend money in ACC, and not the landowners and landlords which are a bit unfairly taxed by the removal of 40 percent of taxable land in the area for one reason or another.
The breakdown of proposed usage of 2020 SPLOST funding is as follows:
* $78 million to ACC facilities seems like a painless way to modernize the needed facilities and help keep property taxes in check.
* $44 million to assist with affordable housing in Athens could alleviate a lot of pressure on low income residents.
* $34 million to build a 5,000 seat arena so we can have events like ice hockey, rollergirls, different levels of musicians and my favorite - a velodrome for indoor bicycle track racing - seems awesome. Although I will digress a little on this one as this will put our investment in the Classic Center over $100 million. While It does have a direct tax creation return of over $3 million which is ironically close to the $3 million it receives from ACC annually to operate, which I think makes this a 0% return and is far from the $0 continued cost put in the SPLOST document.
* $16 million for bond debt service. I think this is an “I want it now” number to cover interest and costs to issue bonds. Makes sense to me cause I want it now.
* $45 million approximately for parks. Great - let's get more people to use them, although I would like to see $500 put into more mountain bike trails.
* $14 million for an eastside library - who doesn’t need more educational resources and encouragement to use them? All good.
Buried in the SPLOST is the one number that sticks out as the most ridiculous, ludicrous, idiotic, short sighted and just plain stupid number in the entire proposal and the reason you should vote no and that is $15.8 million for a “Renewable Energy Project”.
This is a total waste of taxpaying resources. What good is $15.8 million if $78 million is going to create new environmentally damaging construction projects? $44 million is going to more building and development although it be for a good cause. $34 million is to sustain the Classic Center, an energy hog that encourages travel by air and auto by the thousands.
* $45 million which, while encouraging alternative transportation and recreation in some areas, encourages to get in your car and gas it. Athens is better than this. This number should be $310,904,300.
We can't wait another 10 years. A whole lot can be accomplished by spending all SPLOST funds on “Green” projects:
*$78 million to provide renewable energy to existing county structures and lowering future costs of operation.
* $44 million to give free green energy to low income housing providing a direct subsidy to a much needed demographic.
* $34 million to make the entire town a green energy tourist attraction with free or low cost charging stations, beer brewed by the sun, green subsidies for music venues. Then task the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau with selling Athens as a supercharged, energetic city and attracting the Tesla owners of the world to a guilt-free travel destination.
* $45 million to replace every mower, weed eater and blower with quiet energy, efficient and battery operated equipment and supporting all alternative transportation modes to these facilities while planting as many trees as possible on every unneeded inch of Athens property, public and private.
* $14 million to create a model resource center for understanding and promoting how Athens became a leader in saving the planet and educating every person on how they can make small changes to create a big difference. Green lawn educational programs and incentives as an example.
I am truly sorry that I am late to this discussion and I apologize for because I have spent the last year promoting cycling nationwide. But it isn’t too late to put off SPLOST for another year and redo its priorities. Selling 20,000 bikes wasn’t enough. Promoting cycling as a recreational and transportation alternative isn’t enough, Driving a Nissan Leaf and protecting my 100 acres of woods isn’t enough. The long-term economic impact for a different future would be a start. Somebody has to do it now and it should be Athens.
-- Gene Dixon