Leaders of area rural counties expressed concern Wednesday that they might get overlooked in a struggle for sales tax dollars to improve their roads.
Passed this year by the state Legislature, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 established 12 special tax districts in which the counties and municipalities would share funds from a 1-percent sales tax dedicated to transportation projects.
Under the guidance of the state Department of Transportation, lawmakers intend for county leaders in the districts to develop a list of projects to go before voters as a sales tax referendum in the November 2012 general election.
Officials from this tax district, which includes Richmond, Columbia and 11 other counties, met in Evans on Wednesday to discuss the legislation and its flaws.
The primary sticking point for rural officials is how to divvy up the 25 percent of the potential sales tax revenues that would be earmarked for discretionary spending, which are funds that won't be tied to a specific project.
Wilkes County Commission Chairman Sam Moore said state lawmakers initially told him that the discretionary funding would be equally divided among the 13 counties in the district. Officials with the CSRA Regional Commission, which hosted the forum, said that's not so.
Regional Commission Executive Director Andy Crosson said those funds would be distributed based on the current DOT Local Assistance Road Program funding formula, which doles out money based on a county's population and miles of roads.
Moore and many others didn't like that.
"If they're going to use the LARP formula, then we're going to get practically nothing, so what's the incentive to be a part of this?" Moore asked after the meeting.
Crosson said it's a question he expects many rural county leaders are asking across the state.
To more definitively detail the flaws the forum noted in the transportation act, the group voted to create a committee to examine the bill and then report back at a future forum. Once a list of sticking points is identified, the group would pass it on to lawmakers.
"It took three years for (the Legislature) to give us what we have now," Crosson said. "I don't think they would be opposed to listening to the problems the counties will have with the bill and making tweaks."