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Government & Politics Blog

A glance at county, state & federal government services, decisions, and issues that effect East Cobbers.

Vote today!

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Hey East Cobbers! Don’t forget to vote today!

East Cobb voters return to the polls July 22 to help determine nominees for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and State School Superintendent. If you have questions about your eligibility to vote or where to vote, go to www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

 

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SPLOST Hearing Scheduled Tomorrow

A public hearing for the SPLOST will be held at 7 p.m.July 22, at the Board of Commissioners meeting room, second floor, 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

For more information, go to www.cobbSPLOST2016.org.

 

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East Cobb voters return to the polls July 22

vote

East Cobb voters return to the polls July 22 to help determine nominees for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and State School Superintendent. If you have questions about your eligibility to vote or where to vote, go to www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

 

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Cobb Taxpayers Association opposes SPLOST

The Board of the Cobb Taxpayers Association (CTA) has voted unanimously to oppose having the Cobb County Board of Commissioners (BOC) place another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot in November, 2014. The BOC is scheduled to vote on whether to put it on the ballot at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 22nd.

“Unfortunately for Cobb taxpayers, the County has become overly dependent on SPLOST and is using it to pay for routine maintenance items which should be budgeted through other revenue sources”, said Lance Lamberton, Chairman of the CTA. “It is shocking to think that something like 98% of the Cobb’s Department of Transportation budget is dependent on SPLOST. Instead of being a special purpose tax, it has morphed into a permanent one,” Lamberton said.

Another concern of the CTA Board is that since state law requires that the SPLOST be levied at a full one percent, it contends that many projects are placed on the project list regardless of need. As an alternative, CTA is asking that the BOC hold off on putting this SPLOST on the ballot, and give the state legislature another chance to pass a fractional SPLOST in the next legislative session, and then come back with a SPLOST which is more aligned with needs versus wants. Fractional SPLOST legislation almost passed in the last session, but was not enacted due to an inability to reconcile House and Senate versions of the bill in the waning hours of the session.

Of special concern to the CTA is placing the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on the Tier II level of this SPLOST. “It is deceptive and misleading to try to hide this extraordinarily wasteful, expensive and counter-productive project onto the Tier II list, and expect that taxpayers will be duped into not recognizing it for what it is,” Lamberton said.

CTA maintains that the BRT was soundly rejected at the polls with the defeat of the regional Transportation SPLOST in 2012, which had a similar project in it. “The people have spoken” Lamberton said. “It is time for the BOC to listen.”

According to CTA Vice Chairman, David Staples: “I am especially alarmed at a $50 million allocation in the list of Tier I Department of Transportation Projects, whose only justification is to provide a local match for state and federal funding. This is clearly an attempt to help fund the BRT, and to put it in the SPLOST list without specifying what it is for is but another shallow attempt to deceive taxpayers.” He added, “Taxpayers should not have open-ended allocations like this included in a SPLOST list. Projects should be specific and transparent.”

If the BOC does put the SPLOST on the ballot at their July 22nd meeting, CTA pledges that it will launch a full-fledged campaign to defeat it at the polls. If that were to happen, Cobb County’s sales tax would decline to 5% in 2016, making it the lowest sales tax in the state. Most counties in the Atlanta metro area have a sales tax rate of 7%. “This significantly reduced tax rate would be a boon to Cobb County residents and businesses, saving consumers hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years that we would be free from the SPLOST tax burden,” Lamberton said.

Representing hundreds of taxpayers throughout Cobb County, CTA was formed in 2005 to oppose passage of that year’s SPLOST, and has since been active in opposing subsequent SPLOSTS, including the aforementioned Transportation SPLOST. It also supported passage of the Charter School Amendment, and is working for passage of a fractional SPLOST and other measures to reduce taxes, spending, and provide for a more equitable and efficient tax system for all Georgians.

Under the organization’s by-laws that were adopted by its five member board in 2013, CTA was established to:
Organize and inform voters of the benefits and advantages of reducing and/or limiting taxes and government spending.
Inform the public about current issues and engage them in grass-roots activities designed to achieve the above-stated objective.
Advocate and promote private sector solutions to public policy issues.
Work constructively with elected officials to oppose or support legislation, ordinances and measures which support a more limited, transparent, and accountable government on the local, county and state level.
Focus only on taxation and government spending issues and engage its activities only to those which are directly related to the above-stated objectives.

(Source: Cobb Taxpayers Association. For more information, go to: www.cobbtaxpayer.com.)

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Restoring history: Commissioners approve Hyde Farm renovation contract

Eddie Cannon, Cobb director of parks and recreation, stands in front of the house at the Hyde Farm in east Cobb on Friday. The farm is slated for a restoration project after county commissioners approved a $1.4 million restoration project for the house and outbuildings, including two barns. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

Many of the buildings dotting the 95 acres of east Cobb’s Hyde Farm have been standing since the mid-1800s.

The aging structures will soon get much-needed renovations thanks to the Board of Commissioners’ approval of an about $1.5 million construction contract.

PBG Builders will perform the improvements, which will include strengthening the foundations of some buildings and completely rebuilding others “using historically appropriate techniques and materials,” said Eddie Canon, director of Cobb’s parks department.

The funds that will keep Hyde Farm’s structures standing for years to come were included in the 2011 SPLOST project list.

Canon said a goat house, a hog shed and a corn crib are among the 12 historic buildings PBG Builders will revamp.

“All of the farm buildings are in various states of deterioration,” he said.

The Power-Hyde House, which sits in the middle of the park off Lower Roswell Road near the Chattahoochee River, was built on the farm’s grounds about 1840, Canon said.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the district in which Hyde Farm is located, said the process of restoring Hyde Farm has been ongoing since the county purchased its portion of the land.

Cobb County purchased its 42.5-acre piece of Hyde Farm in 2009 for $5 million, and the National Park Service added the remaining 53 acres to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in 2010 for $4.5 million.

The county used funds authorized under the 2006 parks bond program to buy the farm’s central area, which is surrounded on three sides by the National Park Service’s property, Canon said.

Ott said the renovations are just the next step in a long-term effort to turn the park into a destination.

“The idea would be that this is basically going to be a working farm to see what farming life was like in Cobb County during that time frame,” Ott said.

PBG spent several days over the course of two months scouring the farm’s buildings, Canon said, and reported its findings to the county before commissioners awarded it the development contract this week.

Hyde Farm was last cultivated by J.C. Hyde, who lived and farmed the land until his death in 2004. The Hyde family bought the farm from the Power family in 1920. The Powers first built on the land in the 1830s.

Ott said the county ultimately aimed to add a welcome center and restore a terrace as part of its effort to transform Hyde Farm into a “historical look-back.”

He touted the fact the farm sits in east Cobb, an area that has been “pretty much developed out” since the days of the Hyde brothers.

“I think it gives county residents the unique opportunity to see what the community was like back then, and how they fed themselves and how they lived.”

 

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Sarah Westwood, July 12, 2014. View the original article HERE.) 

NOTICE OF PROPERTY TAX INCREASE

The Cobb County School District has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 4.78 percent. All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearing on the tax increase to be held 514 Glover Street, Marietta, Georgia in the Board Room on July 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM.

Tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 18.9 mills, an increase of 0.862 mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 18.038 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $225,000 is approximately $68.96 and the proposed tax increase for non homestead property with a fair market value of $300,000 is approximately $103.44.

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More advance voting locations to open

Advance voting for the July 22 General Primary Runoff is available 8 am-5 pm, Mondays-Fridays, through July 18 at the Elections Main Office, 736 Whitlock Ave., Marietta. Four satellite voting locations will be available 9 am-5 pm, July 14-18

East Cobb Government Service Center 
4400 Lower Roswell Rd 
Marietta 30068-4233

South Cobb Community Center 
620 Lions Club Drive 
Mableton, GA 30126-2438

NorthStar Church 
3413 Blue Springs Road NW 
Kennesaw, GA 30144-1082

Boots Ward Recreation Center 
(Lost Mountain Park), 
4845 Dallas Highway 
Powder Springs 30127-4486

All registered voters may participate in the runoff, regardless of whether they participated in the primary. For more information, including sample ballots, visit cobbelections.org or call 770-528-2581.

 

 

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SPLOST Info Meeting Scheduled This Week

The public is invited to upcoming informational meetings on the proposed 2016 Special Local Option Sales Tax. During the meetings, people can view project lists and converse with county staff  about the various projects being considered for SPLOST funding. Participants may also provide their input.

  • District Two
    7-9 p.m., Monday, July 14
    East Cobb Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
  • District One
    7-9 p.m., Wednesday, July 16
    West Cobb Senior Center, 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
  • Countywide 
    10 a.m.-noon, Thursday, July 17 
    BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta

There will be no formal presentations, so participants may drop in anytime during the allotted hours.

A public hearing for the SPLOST will be held at 7 p.m.July 22, at the Board of Commissioners meeting room, second floor, 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

For more information, go to www.cobbSPLOST2016.org.

 

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Residents object to Chair Lee’s BRT plan at SPLOST meeting

ounty District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, foreground left, chats with Ron Sifen, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the coalition’s secretary, while citizens fill the East Cobb Senior Center community room Wednesday night to participate in a meeting regarding a possible 2016 SPLOST. Birrell organized the meeting, along with county department heads, to explain projects on the SPLOST list and receive public comment. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

County Chairman Tim Lee’s bus rapid transit proposal was on the minds of a number of residents who turned out for a meeting hosted by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell on Wednesday.

The meeting was intended to inform voters about projects that may be funded by a potential 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax.

About 100 people attended the event at the East Cobb Senior Center off Sandy Plains Road.

Birrell was quizzed by Ron Sifen of Vinings, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the group’s secretary.

Sifen mentioned Lee’s announcement he had moved a $100 million earmark for bus rapid transit from the “Tier 1” SPLOST list to “Tier 2,” meaning the project would only be funded if tax collections exceed projections.

The initial draft list included a $100 million line item for Lee’s proposed half billion BRT project. The amount was revised to $78 million before Lee moved the BRT down to “Tier 2,” where the earmark for the transit line now stands at $72.5 million, according to county spokesman Robert Quigley.

Sifen said he predicted Lee would make this decision because the existing SPLOST, which expires in December 2015, is exceeding projections.

“This SPLOST is going to collect close to $100 million more than the $750 million that they’re claiming it’s going to raise,” Sifen said.

He suggested Lee knows it, too, which is why Lee moved his BRT proposal into the Tier 2 list.

“All of a sudden, the $100 million magically appears for Tier 2,” Sifen said.

Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director, estimates a six-year SPLOST would collect $750 million. Pehrson said he based his projections on existing conditions, not on the new $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium and accompanying $400 million mixed-use development that plan to open in 2017.

“We’re conservative with our estimates,” Pehrson said on why he left the development out.

Sifen said he didn’t realize the Braves development wasn’t included in the $750 million SPLOST projection.

“I didn’t even include that,” Sifen said. “So you could easily be adding another $20 or $30 million on top of what we’ve already got.”

Clements, a resident of Birrell’s northeast Cobb district, also emphasized the existing SPLOST collecting more than originally projected.

“And the way things are going right now, it’s looking like this new 2016 SPLOST is going to also collect more than what they project,” she said. “Before they put this to a vote before the public they need to tell us what they’re going to do with that overage. Otherwise who knows where it’s going to go?”

Another resident in attendance was Jan Barton of east Cobb, a retired project manager for IBM, who also takes a dim view of the surplus a new SPLOST would bring in.

“As revenues go up, as home values increase, they’re going to have a slush fund for all their cronies, and you’re not going to know what’s happening,” Barton said.

Birrell made it clear she does not support Lee including the BRT line item on the SPLOST list, regardless of what tier he puts it in. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the list July 22.

“I do not think BRT should be on this list,” Birrell said, noting she planned to speak with Lee about removing it.

Lee was not in attendance.

“I would support the SPLOST list without BRT, and there’s some other things I want to adjust, too,” Birrell said.

Birrell: No ‘set policy’ for surplus

Birrell addressed concerns over what to do if SPLOST revenues come in over projections.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, we’ve never had the problem with SPLOST before of it overreaching the anticipated projections, so we don’t have a set policy in place on how it would be distributed other than once Tier 1 has been issued and there’s money left over then it would automatically go to Tier 2, but how those are prioritized or distributed by district or by department or whatever I think the commissioners would have to decide and vote on that,” Birrell said. “We don’t have anything in place for the 2011 SPLOST and it’s already over projections.”

Carol Brown, president of Canton Road Neighbors, said she attended the meeting to learn more about the proposed projects to determine whether she will support the tax, which would go before voters in November.

“I recognize that many of the projects are needed by the county, and I want to take my time to review the list, and I will make my decision a little bit later on,” Brown said.

Brown shared her thoughts on Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I think because so many of the people that are the most politically active in Cobb are opposed to it, it should probably not be on the list,” Brown said.

And yet, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for some form of transit along the Cobb Parkway corridor, she said.

Judy Renault, who is retired from Lucent Technologies, Inc. and lives in Birrell’s district, said she initially attended the meeting convinced she would vote against the proposed SPLOST.

“I’m tired of taxes being raised, and I was looking forward to SPLOST going away in 2015 and lowering our taxes back down,” Renault said.

Yet after talking with county staff about what projects would be paid for, she changed her mind.

“They knew so much; they knew the budgets. T hey knew how it was all appropriated, so now I trust my county government again,” Renault said.

Even so, she is still not a fan of Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I don’t think that’s going to solve our problems,” Renault said. “It’s sort of like when everybody wanted light rail, light rail, light rail. Well, we don’t have the ridership to make it pay for itself, so the way they’re doing this one, my gut told me this isn’t going to solve our problems. We need to rethink this.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, July 10, 2014. Click HERE for the original article.)

Proposed SPLOST project lists now available

Draft lists of projects for the proposed 2016 Special Local Option Sales Tax are now available online atwww.cobbSPLOST2016.org. These are not final lists and are expected to change with public input.

Public hearings for the SPLOST will be held at 7 pmJuly 22, at the Board of Commissioners meeting room, second floor, 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

The public is also invited to upcoming informational meetings on the proposed 2016 SPLOST. During the meetings, people can view project lists and converse with county staff  about the various projects being considered for SPLOST funding. Participants may also provide their input.

  • District Four
    7-9 p.m., Thursday, July 10
    South Cobb Community Center, 620 Lions Club Drive SW, Mableton
  • District Two
    7-9 p.m., Monday, July 14
    East Cobb Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
  • District One
    7-9 p.m., Wednesday, July 16
    West Cobb Senior Center, 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
  • Countywide 
    10 a.m.-noon, Thursday, July 17 
    BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta

There will be no formal presentations, so participants may drop in anytime during the allotted hours.

 

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