Oconee County voters Tuesday turned down a new Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in a low-turnout election.
Watkinsville voters selected incumbent Mayor Brian Brodrick over Rebecca Billings and incumbent Post 2 Council Member Connie Massey over Carolyn Maultsby.
In North High Shoals, voters selected Meagan Cundiff over Jared Strickland to fill the open Post 5 seat.
In Bogart, incumbent Jenny Bridges was defeated by challenger Greg Maddox. David Kilpatrick was re-elected to Council.
Voters in only two of the county’s 12 precincts, City Hall and Bogart, approved of the new 1 percent Transportation tax.
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Turnout was highest among the 12 precincts in the City Hall Precinct at 21.1 percent, where more than half of the voters also are inside the city limits of Watkinsville.
Across the county as a whole, only 10.7 percent of the voters cast a ballot.
Reversing a trend in recent elections, 66.6 percent of the votes were cast in-person on election day.
In Watkinsville, incumbent Chuck Garrett was re-elected to Post 1 without opposition.
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In North High Shoals, Eric Wright was elected without opposition to Post 3, and Incumbent Hilda Kurtz was elected without opposition to Post 4.
In Bogart, all Council seats are at large, and the top two vote getters–Kilpatrick and Maddox, will take over the seats now held by Kilpatrick and Bridges.
The Transportation sales tax was defeated by a lesser margin on Tuesday than in 2012, when 65.0 percent of the voters rejected the tax.
The tax did poorest in Antioch in the far south of the county, with 70.8 percent of the voters rejecting the referendum.
Turnout was lowest in Dark Corner in the northwest of the county, where only 6.4 percent of the voters cast a ballot.
The tax, if approved, would have gone into effect in April of 2022 and would have run for five years.
County officials has promised a reduction in the property tax of 1 mill had the tax been approved.
The Commissioners may need to rethink their strategy on T-Splost. I suspect they thought putting it on an off year would help since such sales taxes usually pass in the county (the past defeat was perhaps related to its regional nature, rather than county specific). I suspect their argument that this would reduce property taxes was met with skepticism since property taxes rarely decrease. If the millage rate stays the same or goes down, assessments go up and property taxes go up. Maybe what they meant was that without TSplost, property taxes might need to go up, but they didn't say that. If they need more $ for these initiatives, people are smart enough to know that you don't get more$ if you reduce a tax. The Commissioners never had public buy in. To get this, they need to involve the public, perhaps via a committee, to help them set the uses for the tax. How much should go to roads and how much to non-motorized uses? Their proposed TSplost was heavily weighted to roads. Perhaps it needed to be more balanced. I do hope the Commissioners don't abandon the idea, but work in a different way to get it to pass.
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