The Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 tonight to postpone from May 20 until November 4 the referendum on a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Commissioners Margaret Hale and John Daniell were joined by Commissioner Jim Luke in voting for the delay.
Commissioner Mark Saxon voted against the motion, made by Hale and seconded by Daniell.
BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, who votes only in the case of a tie, asked County Clerk Jane Greathouse to record in the minutes his opposition to the delay.
Davis Argued Close To Agreement
Davis said tonight that the Board had made great progress in its five-hour meeting last night and was close to agreeing on the list of priorities for SPLOST funding. He said he wanted to stay to the schedule.
Hale, who has been strongest in making the case for a delay, said the Board needed more time to get additional citizen input. She also called for more transparency in the process, as the video below explains.
Daniell and Luke said they felt they needed more time as well. Saxon said he was ready to move forward and wanted to do so to get the issue resolved.
Implications Of Delay
The existing SPLOST does not expire until the end of 2015, but the Board had moved early on the SPLOST vote out of concern that voters might turn it down.
The county must wait a year before it can put a defeated SPLOST referendum back on the ballot.
So even with the delay until November, the BOC could schedule a second vote that would result in only a small gap between the current SPLOST and a new one.
The special tax of 1 percent has to be renewed every six years and must specify in the ballot language the projects the tax will fund.
The Board had received more than $100 million in requests but is projecting that revenue will allow for only $47 million in spending.
In the meeting last night, the Board reached at least tentative agreement on projects that could be funded by the tax, but Daniell, Hale and Luke argued tonight more time was needed to fine tune that list.
The Board originally has expected to have SPLOST on the ballot in July, when the statewide primary election was to be held.
The General Assembly moved that election to May 20 in response to a federal lawsuit over time for military voting in federal elections.
By postponing the vote on SPLOST, the issue is moved off the May ballot when Daniell and Hale are seeking reelection in the Republic primary.
The postponement means the SPLOST referendum is likely to be joined by a referendum on liquor-by-the-drink, though no official announcement has been made regarding that referendum.
The November ballot is likely to attract a larger turnout than the May primaries, with competitive races underway for a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship and lieutenant governorship.
The liquor by the drink vote is being pushed hard by Melvin Davis for one person: Developer Frank Bishop. Frank doesn't live in the county, and he built the non-walkable, non-descript, destined to have dollar stores in ten years, Epps Bridge Parkway.
Restaurants won't come to EBP without liquor by the drink. There are enough quality LOCALLY-OWNED restaurants in Oconee (Chops N Hops, Piccolo's, Girasole's, etc., etc.); we don't need more big national chain eateries.
Melvin has become a too big fish in a small pond. Time to run for state office, Melvin. You have way too much power, and way too cozy of a relationship with Frank Bishop.
If only Melvin and Frank had ever opened their eyes to smart development, like Glenwood Park in ATL, or Smyrna's Market Village, the county would be looking forward instead of just grabbing a quick buck.
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