Though the dust has yet to settle from the crushing defeat Georgia voters handed politicians and their special interest cronies on TSPLOST, tone-deaf Roswell city officials are asking voters to approve a local tax increase that is cleverly packaged as a bond referendum.
What the folks on Hill Street don’t seem to understand is TSPLOST went down in flames not only because increasing taxes is a hard sell in a weak economy, but primarily because voters became aware that TSPLOST was being promoted on a false premise; that it would “Untie” traffic congestion. Taxpayers are simply fed up with being lied to and manipulated. Apparently Mayor Wood and all six Roswell council members didn’t get the memo.
There wasn’t an empty seat in Council Chambers Monday night when Roswell Finance Director Keith Lee rose to make a sales pitch for debt financing future capital projects – including an abundance of “nice to haves.” His presentation was followed by transparently staged comments and questions from the mayor and council.
Next came public comments during which time local budget hawk Lee Fleck took to the podium armed with facts and figures garnered from the city’s own documents. Page by page Fleck exposed the fact that the Mayor and Council are asking taxpayers to forgo tax relief in exchange for needless debt. After that Finance Director Lee had nowhere to go but admit that the city has enough in the kitty to pay off the present bond which would result in sufficient revenue over time to finance the high-priority capital projects -- without floating new bonds.
The only apparent benefit to piling on more debt rather than paying as we go is the city would have the cash on hand to do the projects in a shorter time frame – maybe. But as Mayor Wood acknowledged, many of the projects on the list require state approval and that, he noted, can take years.
So, why the push for bonds? My guess is the city wants them as a contingency source of revenue in the event the economy continues to weaken and real estate values decline even further – a very real possibility. In effect the proposed new bonds are a tax hike that might be used to insulate city employees from additional decline in the general tax revenue. As Georgians know too well, once politicians have our money they always seem to find a way keep it and use it however – no matter what was promised or written in the law.