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Chamber committee supports SPLOST
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County road improvements and a park in downtown Dawsonville top the wish lists of potential projects to be funded if voters approve a 1-cent sales tax extension in November.

While the county and city officials are still in discussions to finalize the projects, members of the local business community are already on a mission to see that the vote passes.

As chairman of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee, Clint Bearden said the group intends to provide voters with a clear and organized message as to why the tax extension is beneficial to the community.

"[SPLOST] 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 special purpose local option sales tax, 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.

According to county officials, between 70 and 80 percent of tax revenue collected locally comes from visitors doing their shopping in Dawson County.

"This isn't true in a lot of other counties, so it makes it a lot easier to show the benefits of SPLOST here in Dawson, because you're kind of advocating, showing and educating the community about how much of this tax is paid by out of county residents," Bearden said.

The referendum is set to go before voters Nov. 4.

Initial revenue projections show the extension could generate between $36.4 million and $45.3 million depending on a five or six year life of the tax.

During a meeting last month, county commissioners and members of the Dawsonville City Council outlined potential projects each government would like to see funded by the tax.

The city's $9.6 million list of projects ranges from reducing the debt on the municipal complex and revitalizing downtown to funds for new sidewalks and acquiring land for a farmers' market and city park.

County officials have said roads are the top priority for the sales tax collections, amounting to an estimated 63 to 72 percent of the county's proposed public works projects.

The county's list also includes funds for park improvements and to buy public safety vehicles such as patrol cars and an ambulance, as well as IT equipment and file storage.

Both sides have said they are not planning to prefund any purchases and all projects would be funded on a "pay as you go" basis.

The current sales tax program, SPLOST V, was approved by voters in 2007. It started in 2009 and continues through May 2015. If passed, SPLOST VI would begin in June 2015.