Squabbles over library roof funding misplaced anger

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

You cut off your nose to spite your face. Bet you like it that way, don’t’cha?

— Jay-Z

There are some words that are always going to get a reaction. It’s like pushing a magic button: Say the word, get the response.

One of those words popped up as the Dougherty County Commission’s Finance Committee took care of a little housekeeping last week, a seemingly innocuous bit of business that usually wouldn’t get so much as a “meh” from people who keep up with the county government’s doings.

But one of those words — reappropriate — jumped out in a 48-point headline in Wednesday’s Herald, and suddenly this mundane bit of business took on a new life, somehow becoming ground zero for everything that is wrong with Albany, Georgia, America, Earth and the Universe.

A synopsis: The state Department of Transportation previously required government agencies to have a certain level of funding put aside for infrastructure work that was typically undertaken by a party not associated with that government before DOT would move forward with work on projects in that government’s jurisdiction. That being the case, the Dougherty County Commission asked the voters of the county to approve $400,000 in a 2004 special tax referendum for utilities relocation on work it hoped DOT would do on a State Highway 133 widening project.

The voters approved the money. However, less than a year later the DOT — no doubt at the urging of lobbyists such as the Association County Commissioners of Georgia — rethought making governments responsible for work that would most likely be conducted by a third party and rescinded the requirement. That made the $400,000 allocation, as County Administrator Richard Crowdis called it, “moot.”

Jump forward seven or eight years, and the county government finds an appropriate use for the $400,000 that was now not needed for its original purpose: as its share of an almost $800,000 project to replace a badly faltering roof at the Northwest Library branch. By having the matching share in place, the county fully expects to get an equal allocation from the state.

A seemingly logical solution to a problem that is not going away.

However, when news of the plan reached the public, Dougherty citizens immediately started crying foul, accusing the county of misappropriating funding, misleading voters and other such crimes against humanity. Comments ranged from a call to return the money (get your receipts ready everyone ... let’s see, that comes out to 3.2 cents for everyone who lives in the county and all the out-of-town shoppers who spent their tax pennies here) to typical anti-SPLOST rhetoric.

Before we go there, a little bit of inside info to those who “keep up” with government goings-on through online chats: I would challenge you to find not $400,000, not $4,000, not $40, not $4 ... but one red cent in Dougherty County SPLOST funding that is not accounted for. I don’t care if you’re Crowdis’ closest friend or his most bitter enemy, I’d bet the farm you will not find a penny of intentional misappropriation. The man runs the tightest financial ship I’ve ever seen.

I’m not saying some of the projects that have been funded through the special tax haven’t tended toward the frivolous, especially in light of some of the serious infrastructure problems that hang over the county and city like a razor-sharp Sword of Damacles.

But Crowdis not going by the SPLOST book just ain’t happening.

I also find it intriguing that citizens would criticize the county’s plan to use the available $400,000 to put a needed roof on the library. The alternative is for the county to come up with the full price of the project from its tight budget. Isn’t the idea of a representative government, after all, to elect and hire people to make decisions like this that are in the best interest of the citizens?

As for the “don’t ever vote for SPLOST sentiment,” well if you’ve got this thing about removing noses to spite faces, then by all means, keep that penny. Don’t, however, start whining when the already aging infrastructure starts crumbling around you. And don’t start complaining when cuts in services start making your life a little more inconvenient.

It’s the hundreds of millions of SPLOST dollars — as much as 40 percent of them generated by folks who don’t even live here — that have allowed the county and city to upgrade their infrastructure and pay for quality services.

Before you try to rally the anti-SPLOST troops to make one of those “We’ll show them” anti-tax points that always seem pretty hollow when they end up hurting way more than they help, maybe you ought to ask propertyowners how they feel about your plans. After all, they’re the ones who’ll have to pay for every project and every service upgrade once the SPLOST millions go away.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.


Cartman 2 years, 8 months ago

COUNTER-POINT: SPLOST was not originally intended to pay for maintenance and upkeep. It was meant for special one-time projects. That's why the taxpayers specifically voted on it rather than it coming out of the general coffers. It has now morphed into funding the projects that bureaucrats don't want to take personal responsibility for spending money upon. While it is true that we have a representative form of government and are bound by their votes on spending; the SPLOST items are an exception. They were specifically removed from the decision arena of our representatives and put directly into the hands of the public. Ignore the publics's specific decision at your own risk! It is not misapproriation in the sense that funds are unaccounted for or stolen; but they are used for a purpose other than the pretext upon which they were raised.

Since these funds are raised for a specific purpose, then it does understandably upset taxpayers when the money is spent on something else - no matter how noble or logical the other item might be. Ignoring the public's decision only undermines the integrity and public's confidence in future SPLOST votes. The money could be returned by depositing into the next SPLOST which is voted upon by the public.

It is simply not their money to do with as they please. Or then again maybe it is, since they are doing it.


RedEric 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you Cartman, I agree, I am still suspicious of $880,000 to repair a roof. That is very high. I think we need to see contracts. Even if kickbacks were not an issue I do not see the know how to correctly analyze a bid on our council. I do not mean that ugly. It is just not in their area of expertise.


Abytaxpayer 2 years, 8 months ago

Cartman you are spot on. It is the misleading about specific projects that turn out to be something we were never informed about. Good example is the Bus station for 12 years there has been hype about SPLOST funding the construction. But now at 11:58 on the project it is decided OOPS that money we tricked you into voting for cannot be used as we promised we now have to spend it on a repair center we don't even need. But then we all know where Carlton stands on Big Government ...more cool-aid Carlton?


WTFwtf 2 years, 8 months ago

Fletch- the penny here and % there taxes add up. Even if more taxes r used to build something really nifty there comes a point when enough is enough. When did politics and politicians be judged on finding newer and better ways to spend tax payer funds. Why not find ways to tax us less instead and let tax payers decide how their money is used. Im saving up for my own special purpose project.


FryarTuk 2 years, 8 months ago

I was a part of the peanut gallery when the reappropriation of the splost tax was brought up. I said then and now using the money to replace the roof is a legitmate use of tax revenue. However, no one who spreads the editorial ink around much talks about the taxpayer's side of issues in the community. The taxpaying folks generally sponsor the freight for most things that go on in the host of government agencies in this small county. Occasionally we get help from out of town shoppers on splost projects. Whether from the school system, county systems, city systems or ADICA systems, we just flinch and cry automatically when taxes are mentioned. We see how the NW library became county property, we see the Cutliffe Groves, we see the sand dunes projects, we see a non profit hospital system gorging on an incredibly small tax base, we see elected representatives appointing a neutered hospital authority unable to speak to issues, we see the school money going to Murfree's buddies for basically pointless programs, we see WG&L (the only solid agency) muscled down for civil gang rape, we see 90 million dollars divvied up by a group of elected officials who can't balance personal check books and we hear a decision maker declare it doesn't matter if we don't have money for a consultant, we'll do it anyway. We are like the dog whose owner slaps him repeatedly with his hand and every time the hand is raised we duck even when we are tossed a bone.


chinaberry25 2 years, 8 months ago

My guess is after the road fiasco and the poor leadership of this country as well as the county, you better enjoy the Sploshes now on the books. You will probably never get another one passed, so you had better put it in an offshore account like Phoebe to use when you really need it. Same advice to the DCSS.


chinaberry25 2 years, 8 months ago

BTW, forgot, this money no matter which way you cut it, it will still not be used for the intended purpose. Give it back to the taxpayers, like someone suggested. The money does not belong to the powers in charge. Give it to the home owners who have other taxes that if you do not pass this SPLOSH we will add it to your taxes if the threat for voters to pass it.


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