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Commission sends penny tax issue to voters

By Justin Reedy

Clayton County voters will head to the polls on Sept. 16 to decide whether or not to raise sales tax in the county by 1 cent on the dollar to raise money for road and recreation improvements.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to call a referendum this fall on a 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST. If approved by voters, the tax increase would remain in place for five years or until it raised $240 million, with proceeds going to a road improvement program and construction and renovation of recreation facilities.

The proposal has drawn some criticism from local residents n as well as organized opposition from the county Libertarian Party n because it would mean raising taxes during a recession. But county officials say they need a new revenue stream to keep up with maintaining roads in the county, as well as to provide better parks and recreational facilities for local residents.

"We seriously need (the SPLOST) n both recreation improvements as well as streets and roads," said Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer, one of the main proponents for the penny tax.

In addition, Rhodenizer said, the capital improvements the SPLOST would pay for could help boost local construction firms, which have suffered during the recession.

County officials are hopeful that this tax increase will be received better than the last proposed SPLOST, which voters turned down last year. That measure would have raised $200 million over four years, but unlike the new proposal it didn't include nearly $40 million for parks and recreation projects.