Let’s imagine a version of life in Troup County if residents had not approved special-purpose local-options sales taxes that first took effect some 14 years ago. How would our community be different?
For starters, our children would be trying to learn in crowded classrooms because Callaway Elementary School wouldn’t have been built, nor would the classroom additions at West Point Elementary or LaGrange High schools exist. Troup High School wouldn’t have an upgraded automotive training program. And schools across the county would face leaky roofs and outdated heating and air-conditioning systems. Not a pretty sight.
Those children wouldn’t be able to use the facilities at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center because it would still be an empty building, a reminder of a home-improvement company that left town. School buses and recreational facilities on campuses would be outdated.
About 270 miles of roads across the county would not have been paved or resurfaced. Fire protection and public safety would lag, as would water and sewage systems.
Troup County’s government offices still would be in multiple locations, some crowded in a building on Dallis Street, others scattered elsewhere, because the Government Center would still be a vacant lot on Ridley Avenue.
The county health department would be who knows where because its former site near West Georgia Medical Center was demolished for hospital expansion, and the health department wouldn’t be in its facility on Dallis Street.
Let’s take it a step further. Had voters not approved those SPLOSTs, would Kia Motors have located in Troup County? Not likely. Industries such as Kia and its suppliers look at the quality of life that a community offers. After all, its employees are residents too, and it takes more than a paycheck to keep workers happy. That’s where the amenities a community offers makes a big difference when a company decides where to open.
And what about West Georgia Health? It’s long been an asset to our community. But would it have made a multimillion-dollar investment in the South Tower and other upgrades if it wasn’t confident of the future growth of Troup County? The special taxes go a long way toward ensuring that growth.
Without the expectation of that growth, would the large housing developments that now dot the county be built? No. What about the large retail project being planned on 370 along Interstate 85 and Hamilton and Whitesville roads through the tax allocation district program? With its proposed outlet mall, power center, hotels, apartments and medical park, the project wouldn’t be on the drawing board because retail prospects look at areas such as the level of schools and their technology, the roads network, water and sewer capacity, recreational facilities and libraries before they commit to locating in a community.
In short, our community would be a far different – and less vibrant – place had the SPLOSTs not been put into place.
But as George Bailey learns at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” all those bad things didn’t happen. In George’s case, he was born and made a difference in people’s lives. And in Troup County’s case, our residents had the foresight and good sense to approve – and twice reapprove – those special 1 percent taxes.
Voters now are being asked to extend them again. Words have flown back and forth on this page in recent weeks from readers on both sides of the issue. As voters case their ballots, they should ask themselves where would we be without the special taxes that they agreed to levy upon themselves. It’s obvious that we would not be a better community.
Are the special taxes the entire answer to our community’s needs? Of course not. But with decreased funding from the federal and state governments, the reality is that more of the tax burden is being put on local governments. With the special taxes, local residents decide how best to spend the money without someone from Atlanta or Washington providing a mandate.
Those who have never lived elsewhere may fail to appreciate the positive energy our county generates. With nothing to compare it to, they think all communities are like ours. Nothing could be further from the truth. Troup County is the envy of others, thanks to residents who want to look to the future and provide the infrastructure necessary to improve the quality of life.
Yes, times are hard. And it’s easy to say that eliminating the special taxes would put a few more dollars in folks’ pockets. But that would be short-sighted. Any financial adviser will tell you to plan for the future. That’s what these 1 percent taxes are for – the future. The future of our community, the future of our children, the future of their children.
Residents who care about their community and its future would be wise to remember Jimmy Stewart’s character in that vintage movie. Continue to make it “a wonderful life” for us in Troup County. Vote “yes, yes” for the special taxes on Nov. 8.