An open letter re: SPLOST VIII intergovernmental agreement
Commissioners of the City of Albany and of Dougherty County —
The Albany Area Chamber represents the unified interests of the business community. The Chamber, in concert with strategic partners and community organizations, urgently encourages the city of Albany and Dougherty County to adopt an intergovernmental agreement so as to fully leverage the collections potential of the eighth special-purpose local-option sales tax, a 1 percent levy that is anticipated to generate $100 million in six years.
Without such an accord reached by August 8, the governments risk diminishing the special tax’s collection lifespan and proceeds at great burden to the businesses and citizens of Albany and Dougherty County.
The Albany Area Chamber has historically supported SPLOST, ESPLOST and TSPLOST, and successfully led the voter advocacy efforts that helped get these projects across the finish line. That’s because we recognize the impact of the projects on our community. These taxes are indeed special because of their project lists; because they must be approved by the voters; and because they allow for maximum local impact with limited burden on the local taxpayer. We estimate that nearly 50 percent of the tax collection is from visitors, in essence alleviating residents of Albany and Dougherty County through a significant discount on its investment of much-needed projects and improvements.
Without SPLOST, Albany and Dougherty County could not endure the capital expense of the proposed project list that supports economic development initiatives; infrastructure improvements; downtown revitalization; tourism development; talent development and work force training; and quality of life through arts and culture. Many projects are critical; some, mandatory. Without SPLOST, taxpayers would be forced to fund these improvements by other means, such as increased property taxes or service rates, a move that no doubt poorly positions the community to attract business investment and work force talent.
This places excessive pressure on a community recovering from COVID losses. On consumers absorbing soaring inflation rates and businesses hampered by historic labor and supply shortages. On employers and employees positioning themselves to withstand a looming recession. On a community that, meanwhile, is working swiftly, collaboratively and innovatively to move forward, prosper economically and provide greater opportunities for its residents and its businesses.
We are further extremely concerned that the ongoing disagreements on SPLOST will disillusion voters and create an environment for further low-voter turnout at the November elections and risk the required voter approval of the proposed tax.
Albany and Dougherty County is a strong and vibrant community. It is one in which people want to live and businesses want to invest. These should be safeguarded at all costs; they form the foundation for community prosperity. To protect these and to maximize the power of this special tax, the Albany Area Chamber and partners strongly support the immediate adoption of an intergovernmental agreement that maximizes the potential of SPLOST VIII.