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Sales tax, term limits - and temperance?
A guide to November's ballot measures
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Much attention has been given to Savannah’s mayoral and city council races, but there’s more on the ballot than just people. Here’s a brief overview of the measures up for your vote in Chatham County Nov. 8:

ESPLOST Extension

This measure asks voters whether to extend the Educational Special Purpose Sales Tax for another five years or until $330 million is raised, whichever comes first.

Citizens have already been paying the penny tax since 2007; passage of this measure would continue to fund facility improvements, safety renovations and construction projects within the Chatham County School District. It will also pay down previously incurred bond debts but cannot be used to increase personnel salaries or reduce teacher furlough days.

The money will go to fix leaky roofs and dilapidated bathrooms, acquire technology upgrades and build permanent structures to replace mobile classrooms. The extension could help hold property tax increases for education at bay as well as keep ad valorem taxes steady. The construction projects will create employment, and there is the clear point that the economic and social health of a community is directly related to the strength of its public school system.

However, there is criticism that some of the projects that came out of the first round of ESPLOST funds have been questionable, especially the construction of the West Chatham High School in a location nowhere near the neighborhoods it is designed to serve and accessible only by I–16.

ESPLOST 2 includes a new auditorium and additional classroom space for West Chatham High. Though it does not represent an additional tax burden, the measure does not call for improved oversight of the fund.

Removal of Term Limits

Voters will have the choice to eliminate term limits for a single office: The Chair of the Chatham County Commission.

The current law, passed in 1990 by an overwhelming majority, states a maximum of two consecutive four–year terms (the law also applies to the mayor position, which is not up for removal on the November ballot.)

The measure might be referred to as “Pete and Repeat,” as it would allow Pete Liakakis to seek a third term.

Supporters of this measure say it’s not all about the much-beloved, 80-year-old local figure; that if any chairperson wants to run for a third, fourth or 11th time, he or she should be allowed to do so.

Citizens already have the power to vote in someone new if they see fit; term limits only punish and prevent worthwhile candidates with proven track records from entering the race.

But term limits were instilled for a reason: fresh ideas and staving off corruption. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin both supported term limits, and founding father George Mason wrote that “nothing is so essential to the preservation of a... government as a periodic rotation.”

Sunday Package Sales

Anyone who’s had to sheepishly bring a six–pack of soda to a Sunday barbecue is already dialed in on this one. Last April, Governor Deal signed Senate Bill 10, putting Sunday sales in the hands of local municipalities.

An Oct. 11 count by the Georgia Food Industry Association (GFIA) reports that 89 cities and counties across the state — including Savannah, Bloomingdale, Garden City, Pooler, Port Wentworth, Thunderbolt, Tybee, and unincorporated Chatham County — have added referenda to or are holding special elections to allow the sale of beer, wine and hard liquor in retail outlets on Sundays between 12:30–11:30 p.m.

Many folks feel it’s a long time coming and that current law is anachronistic and hypocritical, considering alcohol has been served legally on Sundays in restaurants and other establishments that serve food for years. The passage of each referendum means increased revenue – an extra $3.3 million in total sales taxes for the state, according to the GFIA.

Since each community votes separately, it’s likely it will pass in at least a few places, guaranteeing increased convenience for local residents who don’t want to drive across the state line for a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

Religious conservatives oppose the measure on the grounds that Sunday should be a day of abstinence; the current limitation of sales to after-church hours on Sundays is a nod to such concerns.

But most secular citizens can’t find a plausible reason to vote against this one – unless they own a liquor store in South Carolina.