Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glynn County Projects on the Line Voters Will Decide Tax Issue on Tuesday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glynn County Projects on the Line Voters Will Decide Tax Issue on Tuesday

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- Glynn County voters will decide Tuesday whether to

give city and county officials a 1-cent sales tax that would

raise $57.2 million for capital projects.

The tax would last as long as five years to pay for a variety

of projects including a $1.8 million upgrade of Brunswick's

wastewater treatment plant, road and drainage projects, improved

fire and police buildings and the restoration of several

historic buildings. The county wants $38 million, and the city

$19.2 million.

The wastewater treatment plant is the most urgent of the

projects because the city has entered into a consent decree with

the state Environmental Protection Division and U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency to make changes at the plant,

City Manager Mark Mitchell said.

"Actually, we are supposed to already be under construction,"

he said. The environmental agencies gave the city an extension

on its deadline until voters decide on the sales tax but expect

some sort of movement by November, Mitchell said.

"We run the risk of there being a failure at the plant. It's

got to keep running if we are to accept sewage," he said.

If the sales tax referendum fails, the city will have to find

another funding source, most likely the issuance of revenue

bonds that would be paid off with an increase in user fees.

The tax is a popular solution with local officials because

Glynn County is a resort area with beaches, golf courses and

upscale restaurants, meaning tourists will account for more than

half the revenue.

"It's like a user fee," said Ken Tollison, a real estate agent

and former city commissioner. "Everybody that comes to town and

uses the infrastructure is going to pay for it."

Of the 67,000 residents of the county, there are only 11,000

households on which property taxes are paid, he said.

"About 11,000 homesteads continually pay for all the 67,000

plus the visitors, and that's a little bit unfair," he said.

A watchdog group, Glynn Union of Taxpayers, has mixed feelings

on the notion of voting to tax themselves.

"It's a good idea in principle," said Walter E. Cordell, a

founding member. "Everybody that spends a buck has to pay the

tax."

But Cordell has two objections: There are too many projects on

the referendum, and the County Commission's action on its

annual budget shows irresponsibility.

The County Commission recently voted to fill an expected $1.6

million gap in its $31.6 million budget by pulling from its

reserve fund.

Instead of offering voters all the projects together, the

county should have given them a sort of line-item veto that

would allow the voters to reject projects that are lower in

priority, Cordell said. …

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