With a massive investment in the Augusta area’s transportation projects approved by voters Tuesday, eyes now turn to government leaders who use taxpayer money to see them to completion.
In the 13-county region including Richmond and Columbia counties, a 1 percent sales tax to fund a list of transportation projects was approved by 54 percent of voters.
Counties that passed the measure were Burke, Hancock, Jefferson, Jenkins, McDuffie, Richmond, Taliaferro, Warren, Washington and Wilkes. It was rejected in Columbia, Glascock and Lincoln counties.
Augusta Commission member Joe Jackson, who served on the roundtable of county leaders that compiled the project list, said local leaders have a big opportunity to build trust with taxpayers.
“It has put the local government on notice,” he said. “If they ever want to see the tax extended, they’re going to get it done in the time allotted.”
Law requires that every project on the approved list be completed in the 10-year collection period.
After collection is under way and projects are started, taxpayers will begin seeing economic benefits such as job creation that were touted by supporters of the tax, Jackson said.
Don Grantham, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s District 10 representative, said changes won’t occur overnight. Tax collection begins in January, and small projects could start by the end of the first quarter.
Because a citizen advisory panel will be created to oversee projects and funding, Grantham said citizens should have more trust that the money will be spent wisely.
“It is a mandate, so it gives the people more of a comfort zone that this will happen,” he said.
The Augusta region was one of three in the state to OK the tax. The other two are centered on Albany and Vidalia. Sixty-two percent of metro Atlanta voters opposed it, and 58 percent in Savannah.
Revenue totaling $841 million is expected to fund 83 projects across Augusta’s region.