Cherokee County is one of four counties, out of 159 in Georgia, with a 6% sales tax. Every other county has a higher tax rate. But, where do those six pennies go? Four go directly to Georgia’s general fund and are implemented automatically under state law. Two were put in place by Cherokee County voters, and must be renewed on a regular basis. One goes to the education special-purpose local-option sales tax (E-SPLOST), which raises funds for capital investment in the Cherokee County School District to build schools, buy buses and keep the district’s infrastructure up to speed with our rapidly growing county. (For more information, flip to page 58.)
The last penny goes to the SPLOST, which is split between the county government and our cities, to fund road investment, public safety, parks and other infrastructure.
In November, Cherokee County voters face the important decision of whether or not to renew the SPLOST for another six years; it currently is set to expire in 2024. Prior to the ballot decision, county and city leaders met extensively to negotiate how and where the funds would be invested. The city of Woodstock has published our next SPLOST cycle priorities and, if voters renew the measure, we anticipate the city would receive $49.5 million over the six-year span. We would invest the funds as follows:
- Public Safety (Police and Fire) – $7.4 million
- Public Works (Transportation and Infrastructure) – $30 million
- Parks and Recreation – $9.4 million
- Communications and Technology – $685,000
- Parking and Transportation Improvements – $700,000
- Business, Economic Development, Land Acquisition, Infrastructure and Facilities – $1.1 million
In addition, there are several joint transportation projects that the county has agreed to fund here, in our city, out of its portion of the collections, and the entire county will benefit from an expansion of the Cherokee County Justice Center. Our county has doubled in population since the facility was built nearly 30 years ago, and the needs of our justice system have increased, as well.
The lion’s share of our city’s investments are being made in transportation and public safety needs. This proposed SPLOST budget reflects a city whose priorities center on transportation, public safety, fiscal responsibility and a vibrant community.
I am proud of our staff and council for the hard work put into this investment plan, and for keeping Woodstock focused on the issues that matter most to our citizens. As most of these priorities are expenses that the city must make, whether or not the SPLOST is renewed, the SPLOST functions as a significant offset for our property taxes. It also is spread across sales made to residents of our county and visitors alike, which further lowers the tax burden on citizens of Woodstock. Were it not to be renewed, the result likely would be large property tax increases to replace the funds for these essential priorities, which is something that I know none of us is interested in seeing happen. The decision remains solely the voters’, though, and that is exactly as it should be.
The purpose of this article simply is to ensure you know where these funds would be invested in our city, and, most importantly, that you mark your calendars and vote. Your vote is your voice, and Nov. 8 is the day to make it heard. The great American experiment relies on your participation, and this year’s election cycle is important for so many reasons, the SPLOST decision being just one of them.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your mayor. If you have any questions or thoughts about the SPLOST, or any other issues in our great city, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
— Mayor Michael Caldwell
– Michael Caldwell is the 31st mayor of Woodstock, a retired state legislator, member of the Georgia Technology Authority, partner at Black Airplane, husband to Katie, and father to Oliver, Elizabeth and Charlotte.