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Wednesday May 25th, 2016 7:08PM

Habersham SPLOST marketing committee begins work

By Rob Moore Reporter
CLARKESVILLE - Habersham County voters will go to the polls in November to determine whether to implement a 1-cent sales tax to replace one that expired earlier this year.<br /> <br /> Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) VI would allow Habersham County Government to have a penny of each dollar spent in the county, taking the sales tax from 6 cents back to 7 cents.<br /> <br /> Currently, Habersham is one of only five counties out of Georgia's 159 that don't have an active SPLOST, officials say. <br /> <br /> Of the current 6 cents charged on each dollar, 4 cents go to the state and 2 cents go to the county board of education, with the county receiving nothing.<br /> <br /> Wade Rhodes and the Habersham Chamber of Commerce have taken on the task of marketing the SPLOST in the community.<br /> <br /> Rhodes gave an overview of that process to city and county officials at the Habersham Joint Municipal Association meeting Tuesday night.<br /> <br /> A draft promotional brochure also was distributed at that time.<br /> <br /> The sales tax proceeds would be divided as follows:<br /> <br /> * Habersham County - 69.74 percent;<br /> <br /> * Alto - 1.18 percent;<br /> <br /> * Baldwin - 4.68 percent;<br /> <br /> * Clarkesville - 4.8 percent;<br /> <br /> * Cornelia - 13.17 percent;<br /> <br /> * Demorest - 3.35 percent;<br /> <br /> * Mt. Airy - 2.35 percent; and <br /> <br /> * Tallulah Falls - 0.73 percent.<br /> <br /> Goals include passage of SPLOST VI in November, and increasing voter turnout significantly - to at least 30 percent.<br /> <br /> Only about 14 percent of Habersham County voters cast ballots when the SPLOST extension was defeated.<br /> <br /> Stated objectives of SPLOST VI include:<br /> <br /> * Strengthening economic development;<br /> <br /> * Protecting the quality of life; and<br /> <br /> * Reducing the likelihood of property tax increases.<br /> <br /> Because the law prohibits elected officials from spending public money or actively advocating for SPLOST, a focus group has been developed with both educators and advocators.<br /> <br /> Elected officials will serve as educators in the group, answering questions and discussing the proposed projects to community groups and the public. Community members in the group will actively promote the 1-cent sales tax.<br /> <br /> Rhodes said each of the more than 600 businesses who are chamber members will have a sign, sticker or something encouraging employees to vote. Businesses that will allow it will have signs promoting SPLOST.<br /> <br /> "There is not a member of this chamber that will not help us promote their employees voting," Rhodes said. "It's their right, it's their privilege, and we're going to push that 100 percent."<br /> <br /> Members of the SPLOST VI Focus Group include:<br /> <br /> * Agricultural - Gilbert Barrett as educator, Justin Ellis as advocator;<br /> <br /> * Business/Industry - Mike Smith and Richard Hagler as advocators, Brent Edwards as educator;<br /> <br /> * Education - Judy Forbes as advocator and Gilbert Barrett as educator;<br /> <br /> * Faith-based Community - Brian Butler as advocator;<br /> <br /> * General - Shelly and Patricia Baker;<br /> <br /> * Habersham Human Resource Group - Brenda Speed;<br /> <br /> * Medical - Dr. Terry Greene as educator and John Foster as advocator;<br /> <br /> * Multi-cultural - Mae Brown as educator and Gabriel Pulido as advocator;<br /> <br /> * Retirees/Seniors - Aubrey Motz;<br /> <br /> * Safety - Jeff Gerrin;<br /> <br /> * Small Retail Business - Wendy Behrens; and <br /> <br /> * Get Out The Vote - Matthew Cooper as educator.<br /> <br /> After the meeting, Rhodes said he is pleased with the process so far.<br /> <br /> "I feel extremely positive," Rhodes said. "We've got a great focus group. It's just going to get bigger - going to have more focus groups and as long as the focus group people are well educated and they expand their focus group to more people and they challenge that group to expand to more, I think we've got great momentum."
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