Pass or not, March 16 SPLOST vote will cost taxpayers; early voting starts Monday
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta’s rescheduled March 16 sales tax referendum is expected to cost taxpayers $155,000.
In-person advance voting starts Monday on whether Augusta voters should reimpose the 1% special purpose local option sales tax, which is projected to raise $250 million over the next six years for capital projects.
The referendum was intended to go on the November general election ballot, but the Augusta Commission ceased having planning meetings when the pandemic hit and didn’t resume work on the project list until late last year.
The SPLOST 8 package includes $241 million for projects in Augusta, $7.5 million for Hephzibah and $1.5 million for Blythe. Augusta’s allocation includes $4 million in interest to borrow money to start projects early.
The finalized project list has seed money for a water park and new James Brown Arena, numerous public safety vehicles, park improvements, drainage and road work, several new buildings and more.
With all the additional precautions required because of COVID-19, an election that might typically cost $85,000 will come in at $155,000, Richmond County Elections Director Lynn Bailey said at a recent elections board meeting.
“Those of us that have been around for a while recognize that seems like a hideous amount of money,” Bailey said. “It’s the world that we’re in right now. There are a lot of extra things that we do that we’ve not had to do in elections, across the board.”
Extra expenses tend to include additional staff and personal protective equipment.
Single-issue elections or referenda typically see extremely low turnout but tend to pass. Two prior Richmond County special purpose local option sales tax votes have seen less than 9% participation. Bailey said her optimistic estimate is 10% to 15% for the March 16 vote.
Advance voting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday this week. It will expand to the Henry Brigham, Robert Howard at Diamond Lakes and Warren Road community centers next week from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Voters who desire an absentee ballot must submit a written request to their county elections office. For more information, visit your My Voter Page.