GWINNETT COUNTY - As voters head to the polls tomorrow, Gwinnett County commissioners say public safety will be a priority with or without the renewal of the county’s penny sales tax.
Only once since the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax first passed in the mid-1980s has it been voted down.
Staunch opposition generated by local tea party activists threatens its renewal again.
But Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash and District Three Commissioner Tommy Hunter both tell WSB’s Sandra Parrish that projects like an emergency notification systems in Gwinnett County schools may happen with or without a renewal.
When the proposal was first announced by Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters last month, he said the $5 million system could only be funded if the SPLOST passed.
But both Nash and Hunter agree that the emergency system should be a priority regardless.
“It’s a good idea; it’s taken us time to get to it and regardless of how we stand on this, if it’s agreed that this is a good thing, we’ll find some way to make it happen,” says Hunter.
Nash says the same holds true for badly needed equipment for police, fire, EMS, and the sheriff’s department. Nearly 18 percent of county revenue generated from SPLOST would go to replace vehicles and other equipment.
“A lot of things we’ll have to go back and reprioritize and rework in our budget,” says Nash. “If SPLSOT doesn’t pass, there will be a lot of projects we’ll have to look at in a different fashion.”
Seventy percent of the county’s proceeds would go towards transportation projects. Much of the opposition has focused on the fact that a list of those projects won’t be generated until after the SPLOST passes.
But Hunter and Nash say if the tax isn’t renewed, some road projects will have to go forward regardless for safety reasons.
Both understand it’s an issue of reestablishing trust among voters upset over scandals involving land deals and previous commissioners.
“We will spend money on what we have to do,” says Hunter. “If this doesn’t pass, we’ll reprioritize, we’ll keep our house in order, and it’ll give people another opportunity to show they can trust us.”
Neither was ready to address if a property tax increase may been needed to fund some of those necessary projects if the SPLOST doesn’t pass.