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Business group supports SPLOST
Encourages a yes vote Nov. 4
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Advance voting begins Monday for the Nov. 4 election, which includes a referendum asking voters to extend Dawson County's 1-cent sales tax.

If approved, projections show the tax could generate an estimated $45.3 million over six years to be split at a ratio of 85 percent to the county and 15 percent for Dawsonville projects.

Proponents of the extension say as much as 85 percent of the tax money collected locally would come from visitors shopping in Dawson.

That translates to local residents paying just 15 cents for each dollar collected, according to Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes.

"I don't know about y'all, but if a bank told me that they would guarantee that for every $15 I invest, I would get a benefit of $100, I would invest as much as possible," she said.

"The revenue that our county and city receives from [the special purpose local option sales tax] allows our community to have better resources that we would not be able to afford without it."

Among the city's proposed projects are plans for a park on Main Street, a farmers market and water and sewer improvements. Revenue could also fund downtown revitalization, while officials have indicated roads are the top priority for the county's share of sales tax collections.

Dawsonville Councilman Chris Gaines hailed the proposed extension as "a great way for our county and city to fund important projects."

"We are in the unique situation that the majority of funding comes from people outside our community that spend money here, yet our citizens and businesses receive the benefit of the projects," he said. "All of these projects protect us better, provide for our future and further define the great quality of life in our city and county."

Officials have said they plan to use nearly 70 percent of the county's portion on some much needed public works projects, specifically roadwork.

With 277 miles of roads, including 71 which are gravel, Commission Chairman Mike Berg said the county could use the money.

"Roads are probably the only asset which deteriorates at a more rapid rate than other things," he said. "You build a building and you expect it be able to be used for 40 years, where you might get seven to 10 years out of a good road.

"Roads are an expense that's difficult to pay for out of general fund money because it takes so much."

The county's project list also includes park improvements and the purchase of public safety vehicles such as patrol cars and an ambulance.

While there has been little vocal opposition to the sales tax extension, a group of business professionals has formed to promote a "yes" vote.

As chairman of the chamber's legislative affairs committee, Clint Bearden said the group intends to provide voters with a clear and organized message.

"[The tax] is one of those things that a lot of folks don't know what it really does and what the final impact of the tax is," he said. "They may know that they voted on the 1-cent sales tax ... but a lot of the citizens don't have time to sit down and look over these lists and see what this penny tax is going to provide for them or what it is going to do for our community."

The goal of the committee, he said, is to educate the public on the benefits of the extension, which would be known as SPLOST VI, while advocating for its passage.

"We'll be able to get that message out to more people, to families, to people in the business community, to show them what benefits we're actually going to receive from the SPLOST collections," Bearden said.

The current sales tax program, SPLOST V, was passed by voters in 2007. It started in 2009 and runs through May. If approved, SPLOST VI would begin in June.

Advance voting for the Nov. 4 election is set for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday from Oct. 13-31. Voters may also cast their ballots from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 25, a Saturday.

All advance voting will be held at the board of elections office, 96 Academy Ave. near downtown Dawsonville.