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Lee voters approve SPLOSTs

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy called the 85.44 percent affirmative vote for continuation of the county's 1 percent special-purpose local-option sales tax a "confirmation" Tuesday night after votes were tallied by elections officials.

The "yes" votes for the county's SPLOST VI referendum totalled 880 to only 150 "no" votes, an 85.44-14.56 percent margin of victory.

In the other question on the ballot, Lee voters approved continuation of a similar education SPLOST by an even wider margin, 907-117. The E-SPLOST "yes" votes accounted for 88.57 of the total 1,037 votes cast.

"I'm extremely pleased at the turnout, which was low but still a big improvement over the last two SPLOST votes," Duffy said. "I'm impressed with the citizens of this county, because I believe this vote is a confirmation that property owners believe that a sales tax is the fairest tax in our county.

"It is very encouraging that the vote passed by an 85 percent margin ... Again, it's confirmation by our voters."

While the turnout increased by 40 percent over previous SPLOST votes in 2006 and 2007, the turnout still accounted for only 5.98 percent of the county's 17,341 registered voters.

"So many people move to Lee County for the superior school system and for the quality of life this community provides," Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said. "You would think these are the people who would be concerned about the roads they drive on every day and the books that are available to their children in the school system.

"It's puzzling to me -- it's frustrating -- that more don't turn out for these important votes. It's also frustrating that our staff prepares for each election as if all 17,000 voters are going to turn out. It's disheartening to prepare and then have such a low turnout."

Officials in the county, though, were pleased by the overwhelming support for both the education and city/county SPLOSTs.

"SPLOST is a good thing for everybody," Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn said. "Everyone wins with a positive SPLOST vote: the city, the county and Smithville. We'll all benefit for years to come."

Leesburg District County Commissioner Betty Johnson also lauded the vote outcome.

"This is the best thing in the world," Johnson said. "I'm just disappointed more people didn't turn out to vote. But we'll move forward now with plans to improve our roads and bridges, to purchase new sheriff's vehicles, new ambulances and new firetrucks.

"This will allow us to continue to emphasize public safety in the county."