By Emily Hadden, Staff Writer
On March 15, Towns County voted for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. With votes from nearly 1,500 Towns County residents, SPLOST passed with 90 percent approval.
SPLOST goes into effect July 1, and is a one percent sales tax that applies to property owners in Towns County, visitors and local citizens.
Revenue from SPLOST will provide funding for constructing school facilities. SPLOST will not cause a tax increase and will allow the current sales tax rate to stay the same. SPLOST expires on June 30 and was voted not to renew. SPLOST will benefit both Hiawassee and the city of Young Harris by funding capital outlay projects in the county.
County projects include recreation improvements, such as a multi-purpose recreational and community building and walking trails for citizens of all ages. Road improvements are included with intentions for bridge improvements, cross walks and parking areas.
SPLOST will also provide funds for ambulances, public safety vehicles and improvements for public libraries. Water and sewage developments, which will remove phosphorus, nitrogen, and other harmful wastes in Lake Chatuge, are included as well.
Commissioner Bill Kendall excitedly stated, “We started planning for SPLOST in January 2010, [and] 15 months later the vote finally passed.”
The first SPLOST project the county has planned is funding for the Towns County Fire Department. New equipment such as hoses and fire hydrants will be provided. These will not only benefit the fire department, but will allow lower insurance prices for some Towns County residents.
Local residents seem excited about SPLOST and what it will bring to the community. “It is a very good thing. SPLOST will provide funding for parks and recreational purposes. Without it, we wouldn’t have all of these things,” said Miranda Woody, a resident of Hiawassee.
SPLOST will last for six years and is estimated to raise $12.7 million. The cities of Hiawassee and Young Harris will each receive nine percent of the funds. When the intended projects are complete, SPLOST will be used to decrease county property taxes. Nine percent of SPLOST funding is allotted to the city of Young Harris and may financially aid parts of Young Harris College construction. A statement from YHC is not available at this time.
This post copyedited on April 18, 2011.