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Officials urged to be flexible on transportation sales tax projects

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Three weeks after Augusta-area voters approved a 1-cent sales tax for transportation investment, the Georgia Department of Trans­portation is already warning local leaders to prepare for funding and scheduling contingencies.

Revenue projections, which were calculated before the July 31 referendum, can likely change and construction schedules will depend on the incoming funds, department leaders said Tuesday.

Deputy Commissioner Todd Long met with city and county leaders from the 13-county Central Savannah River Area region for the first time since the area passed the tax. Augusta’s region was one of three in the state that passed the tax; nine others voted it down.

Because the state economist’s revenue projections are largely dependent on economic conditions, Long said each project design should have room for change.

“In case revenues dip and you don’t have the available funds you think you may have, sometimes there might have to be a scale back in the project design,” Long said. “We don’t anticipate that, but we have to keep that notion in front of us because we have to deliver the project.”

Under the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, which created the referendum, all 84 projects in the region must be completed by 2023. Revenue will be distributed by the Georgia State Finan­cing and Investment Commis­sion.

“Over 10 years, there’s no telling what kind of things we’ll be faced with,” said Russell McMurry, the DOT’s engineering director. “Things change in 10 years.”

Russell said the department recommends the CSRA Regional Planning Commis­sion become advisers to help shuffle any changes.

Department leaders reiterated several times during the meeting the importance of delivering the projects on time and on budget. Gov. Nathan Deal and voters are carefully watching the massive tax investment for proper handling of funds, they said.

Long said annual audits for every city and county, which are already required, will make sure the funds are spent correctly.

Each construction project cannot begin until sufficient revenue has been collected. Collection of the 1-cent sales tax begins Jan. 1. The first month’s revenues should be allocated to cities and counties March 1.

Budgeting, scheduling and administration – duties typically performed by the DOT – will be outsourced to a program manager, said Mike Dover, the department’s administrator for the tax program.

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dstewartsr 08/21/12 - 06:03 pm
Haven't collected

...the first dime and already, the bait is gone and it's switch time. Toldja!

Fiat_Lux 08/21/12 - 07:24 pm
You guys still think this was a good idea?

Ya idiots! There's NO WAY the state will allow us to use this extra taxation money WE VOTED to collect from our own pockets. I'm doing as much of my shopping as possible in South Carolina.

This area is made up of such a lot of total fools.

Insider Information
Insider Information 08/21/12 - 07:26 pm
"Flexibility" is a code word

"Flexibility" is a code word for "power."

When government bureaucrats say they need "flexibility," that translates into they want the power to decide without those pesky voters getting in the way.

soitgoes 08/21/12 - 10:30 pm
Already back-peddling

That did not take long. Next all state and fed funds controlled out of DOT in Atlanta will end and leave us all alone to locally fund our roads. Suckers!! And so it goes...

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/22/12 - 07:54 am

I wonder why that Todd Long conveniently left out discussion about this Associated Press story from Sunday's print edition:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation says Georgia has $11 million in federal funding to spend on road and rail projects, but the money must be used by the end of the year. Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said the state will review transportation projects assigned by Congress from 2003 to 2006 to see what can be completed by Dec. 31. The biggest project is $2.97 million for rail facilities near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The money announced Friday is part of $473 million nationwide being freed up by President Obama from unspent earmark funds.

I guess all this money will go to the regions that rejected the TSPLOST. We in Augusta and Columbia County are suckers, indeed.

Riverman1 08/22/12 - 08:45 am
What was the promised

What was the promised financial benefit for regions that voted for the tax? Seriously, I forget the specifics of it. Anyone remember? I want to see if that's going to be done as they said.

SemperParatus 08/22/12 - 05:51 pm
Say what?

The ink isn't dry on the legislation that passed recently and already a state board is sending out warnings! Utterly amazing but not surprising.

dichotomy 08/22/12 - 10:13 pm
I'm so happy to know that the

I'm so happy to know that the same districts that gave us TSPLOST have now given us Roundtree. They are consistent if nothing else.

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