$210 million in projects in tax vote are undetermined

Before ballots are cast for a 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax for transportation, voters will have little way of knowing how $210 million will be spent.

The law creating a July 31 referendum on a Special District Transportation Sales and Use Tax reserved 25 percent of regional revenues for local transportation projects yet to be determined. Local jurisdictions will share the money but can use it without regional or citizen oversight.

The other 75 percent of tax collections must be used for a project list that was completed Oct. 15 after months of review by regional leaders.

Defenders of the tax say transportation can’t be improved without accounting for smaller projects that arise, such as potholes, sinkholes, drainage problems and everyday maintenance. Tax skeptics, however, want to make sure that money is used wisely.

Augusta Commission member Joe Jackson, who served on a regional roundtable for the tax, said writing a mandated list undermines the flexibility of a discretionary fund. He does have recommendations for city traffic engineers, however.

“It needs to go back into the infrastructure of this county,” Jackson said.

Local shares are determined by a complex calculation based on local population and a ratio of paved roads to dirt roads. No state approval is needed for local projects.

Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said the county could start with projects that were proposed before the project list was cut. Those include resurfacing Tobacco Road, Highland Avenue and Wrightsboro Road from Marks Church Road to Highland Avenue.

“As time goes by, our priorities might be redirected,” Cassell said.

Intersection improvements, bridge work, drainage and road safety could also receive some funds, he said. Projects, like any road construction, would need approval of the city commission.

Richmond County could receive more than $45 million to use in the consolidated areas, Blythe and Hephzibah.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said he’s concerned about a lack of public input on discretionary money. He sees the local funding as a way politicians can reward their own districts.

“We need to put an overall map and plan in front of voters,” Bowles said. “Let them decide.”

The discretionary money must go toward transportation, but aside from that there are few rules. It can be used as local matches for state projects and grants.

Columbia County voters might have a better idea of where their local allocation will go.

Ron Cross, the chairman of the Columbia County Commission, said local leaders have started making a rough list of improvements that didn’t make their final project list.

Discretionary funds could be used to improve more than five intersections, Cross said. That could include traffic lights, turn lanes or widening the road approaching an intersection.

The intersections of Blanchard Road at Wash­ington and Hereford Farm roads could get improvements, he said. Sidewalk additions near schools and the paving of the county’s few remaining dirt roads are also making a short list.

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dichotomy
37618
Points
dichotomy 07/20/12 - 09:20 pm
6
0
Can you believe the pressure

Can you believe the pressure being put on us to give them more of our money? Ask them for an accounting of ALL of the gasoline tax the has paid in this "region", or these counties. And RC residents, they are already pretty much telling you that most of this "region's" TSPLOST money will probably get spent in Coulumbia County. Vote NO on this TSPLOST thing and start beating up our local illustrious legislative delegation to get OUR share of the GAS TAX we already pay. They are spending all of OUR state GAS TAX money in the metro Atlanta area and now they want us to pay MORE to get our potholes fixed. NO on TSPLSOT.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 07/20/12 - 09:45 pm
6
0
Right on, Dichotomy

Just read the title and the first paragraph and you have yet another reason to vote NO!, in addition to the 896 earlier reasons mentioned here.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 07/20/12 - 09:55 pm
6
0
Hmmm...

Interesting that a governor who ran as a conservative , and the ACES would be pushing for yet ANOTHER tax.
Hey guys, try this!....Spend the money you already have more efficiently!
Just a thought!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/20/12 - 10:43 pm
4
1
Discretion

TSPLOST empowers politicians to use discretion on how they spend our money.

But...

Politicians also have discretion to adopt rules on how to spend the money and discretion on creating a citizens oversight committee.

The Richmond County school board doesn't do much right, but they did establish a citizens oversight committee for its SPLOST projects to build public support and ensure accountability

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/20/12 - 10:53 pm
5
0
Discretion = Power

Discretion = Power

bar123
28
Points
bar123 07/21/12 - 06:23 am
6
0
Vote no on this tax .

Vote no on this tax .

avidreader
3567
Points
avidreader 07/21/12 - 07:55 am
6
0
No! No! No!

As Insider writes: discretion = power. Well said. Our county already has taxes in place to deal with transportation needs. Use the current money that's available, cut some fat, and do not trust our local politicos to spend wisely.

nocnoc
49634
Points
nocnoc 07/21/12 - 09:36 am
6
0
Some fact and figures

Just checked a few Websites and found Georgians used about:
2,353,655,853 gallons (FY 2011) of fuel at a total (State/Fed) of $0.478 tax per gallon for Gas only ... This is NOT even counting $0.563 p/gal on Diesel.

Do the math yourself the Gas Tax alone equals about $1,125,047,497.73 (2010 fy figures) available to maintain all of GA.'s 102,653.89 miles of paved roads.

Between 12 and 16% (depending on the county) need basic maintenance each year at about $3,900 a mile or using a 14% average
14371.5446 miles @ $3,900 a mile costs just over $56 Million out of over a $1.125 Billion dollars. That leaves over $1.069 Billion

Now add in Bridges, signs, painting mowing, and etc.. It well add up but is manageable if budgeted and planned for.

Examples:
* To remove the existing Highway pavement, and do a resurfacing costs an average of $125,000 per mile for 2 road lanes. (Asphalt -GA Highway and not concrete Interstate type)

* A NEW 24 Ft wide road bed, stripping, signs and occasional bridge etc.. can cost about $400,000 per mile (2010 figures)

Existing collected Taxes can more than cover the repairs and periodic basic maintenance, if there is proper planning.

Yes NEW or replacement roadways cost a lot and have to be planned years out in advance to accomplish. So either our various DOT dept.'s failed to plan, some group can't wait for a new road, or the situation is focused on the more politically worthy voter rich Metro-Atlanta areas.

To quote 2 old but worthy sayings:
1.) Failure to plan on their part does not constitute and emergency on my part.
2.) Why should I trust them to do the right time this time.

The Governor wants this so bad, he has even offered to remove the GA 400 Toll Booths "next" year. We all know how that will get funded. BTW: The Ga. 400 toll was to have stopped when GA 400 was paid for, but it didn't. It was paid for about 10-12 years ago. The political powers used their carefully crafted wording of the "Discretion"" to now have GA 400 drivers now pay for other projects years beyond the "promised elimination date".

I not going to suggest a DOT Budget audit, when we can't even get one here for a what has been called a Floating Park Deck.

Aside from all the other problems with this, I'm Voting NO just because of the Discretion clause.

Honestly, who trusts a bunch of politicians in a election year on anything they say? Especially with years to find ways to reward special friends before the next election.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 07/21/12 - 10:46 am
4
0
Follow the Money

It's an 840 million dollar tax. Follow the money.

Sweet son
11762
Points
Sweet son 07/21/12 - 11:57 am
5
0
Nine No Votes So Far!

I will be the 10th!! Has anyone of you got a feeling about how most people feel about this? It's obvious that all of us think it is stupid!

nocnoc
49634
Points
nocnoc 07/21/12 - 05:07 pm
4
0
Tax yes but a Bribe none the less.

Riverman1 - I agree it is nothing more than a tax on the surface.

What really ticks me off is the openness of bribing special persons with over $100 Million of the tax revenues.

If we need this TSPLOST so bad, why are they allowing 25% to be used Discretionary without taxpayer input or oversight?

Simple, they need local political support to get this Titanic Pork Bill passed.

cheapster505
581
Points
cheapster505 08/02/12 - 10:58 am
0
0
the great OZ

"Forget the man behind the curtain for I am the great and benevolent
OZ" of course none of this is possible without a discretionary spending by the local Lords and 25% to the ceasers in atlanta

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