Fayette a ‘donor county’ for taxes?

Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele.

Mayors of county’s 2 largest cities take opposite positions on 2012 regional transportation tax referendum

The mayors of Fayette County’s two largest cities have diametrically opposing viewpoints about a pending 1-cent regional sales tax to be put to a vote next year.

Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix is against it, while Fayetteville Mayor Kenneth Steele is for it.

Early projections show that a 1 percent, 10-year sales tax for regional transportation projects in the 10 counties in metro Atlanta would generate about $205 million total from Fayette County alone.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the anticipated region-wide take of $7.8 billion, nearly two-thirds of which would come from three counties: Cobb ($1.3 billion), Gwinnett ($1.4 billion) and Fulton ($2.3 billion).

Fayette’s $205 million collection is not a small amount on its own, and Peachtree City’s Haddix contends that most of Fayette’s take will be spent in other jurisdictions with no benefit to Fayette County at all.

Because the tax projects must relieve congestion, there are no projects that qualify for the money in Fayette County, Haddix argues.

But Fayetteville’s Steele, who replaced Haddix on the Regional Transportation Roundtable in a contentious public squabble last year, insists that there are a number of beneficial projects that will qualify for the funding, even though Fayette doesn’t have the congestion problems seen elsewhere in metro Atlanta. Among the potential Fayette projects Steele sees are:

• Widening of Ga. Highway 54 East to four lanes from McDonough Road into Clayton County.

• Widening of Ga. Highway 85 South to four lanes from south of Fayetteville to perhaps Price Road or the Fayette-Coweta county line.

• Widening of Ga. hwys. 279 and 314 all the way to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which would be a joint project with Clayton County.

Steele said he also would support Fulton County officials’ quest for improvements to the often-clogged interchange of Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 74, which is a major sticking point in Fayette residents’ daily commutes.

“That’s one project that would be appreciated,” by the large number of people who commute into Atlanta everyday, Steele said. “That could save them five, six or seven minutes each way.”

Also, Tyrone wants to widen Collinsworth Road to the Coweta County line, Steele noted.

Steele also said that Peachtree City officials are seeking funding for cart paths, and he will work towards having some of those projects funded by the T-SPLOST also.

Steele noted that the highest concentration of Fayette commuters work either downtown, in midtown or in the Buckhead area if they don’t go to the airport.

So far Fayette officials have compiled a list of transportation projects totaling about $300 million, so there is plenty of opportunity to get some of them done considering Fayette’s $205 million estimated contribution to the sales tax, Steele said.

Haddix said the only guarantee is that Fayette County will get back about $46 million of its $205 million. He feels certain that the remainder of Fayette’s contribution will be used in other jurisdictions.

The $46 million Haddix cited will be parceled out to each local government in the county using a formula based on total lane miles and population. That represents Fayette’s take from the “15 percent” of the tax revenues, which the enabling legislation requires to go back to the local participating governments.

The cities and county will be able to spend this money on any local transportation projects they choose, according to state transportation officials.

Haddix has been very skeptical of the entire Regional Transportation Roundtable process, and after his suggestion that Fayette leave the Atlanta Regional Commission, he found himself replaced as one of Fayette’s roundtable representatives by Steele after a second vote recorded by a majority three of Fayette’s five mayors.

Haddix has submitted an inquiry to the Georgia Attorney General’s office to determine if his removal from the roundtable was legal. So far he has not yet gotten a response.

Fayette’s other representative on the 21-member roundtable is County Commission Chairman Herb Frady.

Haddix has said he prefers the ability to use a local SPLOST to fund transportation improvements, and said he would support a property tax rollback in conjunction with any such local SPLOST. Such a rollback could save Peachtree City residents a mill and a quarter to a mill and a half off their property tax bill, he said.

The political reality is that if the regional T-SPLOST is passed — adding a 1 percent sales tax for 10 years — Fayette voters are very unlikely to consider adding yet another 1 percent sales tax on top of that, even for five years for a local T-SPLOST that would focus on Fayette County only.

The other striking reality is that even if Fayette voters deep-six the regional T-SPLOST here, if it is approved by a majority of voters in the entire 10-county Atlanta region, the tax will be assessed here in Fayette County and in the nine other counties. That is how the process was created when the enabling legislation for the regional sales tax was approved last year by the Georgia general assembly.

Haddix has also been critical of the roundtable process and other “wheels in motion” which he says will ultimately bring bus and rail transit to Fayette County.

Steele strongly resists that notion, arguing that there is no desire and no funding for such to take place.

“There is no money, there is not the density of population, and there’s no way to have a business plan that’s anything but a money-loser,” Steele said. “And most of the people don’t want it.”

The “Concept 3” report which Haddix has used to provide proof of bus and rail service being planned for Fayette County is merely a document designed to show what a regional transit system could perhaps look like, Steele said.

“There’s no bus service planned for Fayette County, or rail service,” Steele said, noting that the Concept 3 report identified the existing rail infrastructure for a potential line that could lead from Peachtree City into Atlanta.

Haddix, however, argues that the enabling legislation for the sales tax allows the roundtable to dictate transit operations in Fayette County no matter whether Fayette wants it or not. But with so few dollars on the table for spending, to some it might seem unlikely that such a scenario would unfold, as other officials on the roundtable might prefer spending the money in their own jurisdictions instead.

“Let’s say Concept 3 gets approved,” for regional T-SPLOST funding, Haddix said. “It doesn’t matter what any individual county wants to do. If it’s on the constrained list and it gets passed, it will be implemented as proposed with no changes in it, no county’s right to opt out, and no county’s right to change the priority. ... It’s pretty much in concrete. You can’t change the projects once they are approved.”

Steele noted that there are discussions for a regional transit authority to operate in Atlanta, but it is envisioned for it to be a coalition of five counties: Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Fulton and Clayton. Steele is skeptical that the legislation will pass muster this year or perhaps next because of the state’s budget issues that will need to be addressed by the legislature.

The roundtable has already authorized a state-recommended list of “investment guidelines” to show how much regional T-SPLOST money could be spent on any given transportation category. Among the categories receiving the largest investment range are roadway capital at 20-50 percent, transit capital at 10-40 percent, safety and traffic operations at 5-15 percent and roadway and bridge maintenance at 0-10 percent.

The investment guidelines also allow for funds to be set aside for transit operations and maintenance at a level between 5 and 20 percent.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Mayor Steele

No one cares about your position on TSPLOST, and no one cares about Mayor Haddix's position either.

The fact is we are going to have our taxes increased and we will not have a meaningful voice in whether we have them raised or not.

It is the State Legislature that did this evil deed to Fayette County. Our two representatives supported the legislation that created this monster. I can only assume that they did so simply to get along with the power brokers in the Republican Party. Just like you Mayor Steele. They are both on a career fast track at the capitol. Perhaps they can take you with them.

If we get the tax against the wishes of the majority of Fayette voters, the next time I go to the polls I will remember this. I will not forget who did this to us and I will make sure those that I associate with know it as well.

ginga1414's picture
Joined: 09/01/2008
Sylvester, Where Is Tweety Bird?

Every time I look at the above picture of Mayor Steele, all I can think of is "the cat who ate the canary." "I did! I did thaw a puddy tat!" Poor little Tweety!

grassroots's picture
Joined: 02/17/2009
Taxation Without Representation is Unconstitutional

Except for big government though. Give $10 get $9 back. Especially education. We managed 91 miles of golf cart paths, two recreational lakes and maintained a rural characeter without big government. T-SPLOST is BIG Government. It will only result in big government corruption and pork pet projects. Plus it will never go away, just get bigger. 10 Years?
Better to call the psychic hotline and get a better picture of what's going to happen in 10 years than what politicians predict. Who predicted the mess the contry's in now? Maybe golf cart paths all the way to Atlanta for mass transit and jets that don't make noise and Atlanta Thrashers win the Stanley Cup.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Grassroots - Talk

Talk with you state representatives, they both supported this new law that puts Fayette County in a very, very poor position in deciding on new taxes.

You had representation on this law.

grassroots's picture
Joined: 02/17/2009
GOP Deceptacons

Thanks for the heads up. I will confront them and post it. T-SPLOST is not in the bag yet.

Tiger Dad
Tiger Dad's picture
Joined: 10/11/2007

Steele thinks he's special. He's a jerk. I've met him several times and he's always had a nasty disposition about him. He acts like he is above everyone. If someone would just grow a pair and run against this jerk, we'd all be a lot better off. Does anyone realize that he's won the last two elections unopposed? He's basically Fayetteville's mayor by default. Ridiculous...I wish I was able to run against him...

johenry's picture
Joined: 08/22/2006
Tiger Dad - Steele

I agree with you! Fayetteville has got to be the only place where 450 votes can win an election. They just don't vote!

And because they don't vote, Ken Steele is allowed to trash our entire county.

Doug's picture
Joined: 09/07/2006
Ken Steele

First, it says, "Steele strongly resists that notion, arguing that there is no desire and no funding for such [mass transit] to take place."

Next the mayor says, "Steele noted that there are discussions for a regional transit authority to operate in Atlanta ..."

Does anybody trust this snake in the grass?

Really now, if the mayor doesn't want mass transit in Fayette County then how come he keeps pushing it in the Atlanta Regional Commission?

grassroots's picture
Joined: 02/17/2009

When I named my blog I had no idea how long it would stay relevant. It seems now more current than ever. It's so black and white. This year they call this slicked up package of a tax T-SPLOST. We still stand by our motto. SPLOST power corrupts; absolute SPLOST power corrupts absolutely.
Now we have a greased pig slipping and sliding through the political sausage grinder called T-SPLOST. Mayor Steele has several pet carrot projects thrown out there , none of which are in Fayetteville. Didn't know we had a Mayor of Fayette County.

Spear Road Guy
Spear Road Guy's picture
Joined: 07/21/2006

I'm going with Brown and Haddix and let's get the heck out of the Atlanta region!!!

Scott Bradshaw said to opt out of the mass transit but you know they ain't allowing us to do that.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Personalities aside, T-SPLOST is inevitable

The whole thing is set up specifcally so all counties that produce traffic and use the roads, rail, whatever pay for it. Just because Fayette doesn't touch any interstate highways, it does not mean we are confined to our bubble. Those that work in Atlanta use roads in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton and beieve me those counties don't want to pay for Fayette people passing through their county on the way to work - or even a Falcons playoff game.

And it is set up so that even if our self-involved, commuter voters say no, we still pay if the transportation board can portray the problem and solution as regional - which it certainly is. And yes, that will preclude a local sales tax for strictly local projects, because the voters can kill that one. Sad, but true.

Thinking that we can continue living tax-free while the other counties absorb our costs is just plain naive. Better to follow Mr. Steele's strategy of being at the table so we know what is going on and maybe even have some small bit of influence on the solution than Mr. Haddix's strategy of leaving in a snit.

Don't like Steele? Elect a new mayor if you can. Or replace Haddix with someone who will represent the county better than Steele and put him or her on the transportation board. Don't forget Frady - he's there as well.

grassroots's picture
Joined: 02/17/2009
Taxation Without Representation is Unconstitutional

Does that mean taxation with only 10% representation is now acceptable? Your in the water with the boiling frogs Morgan. What did we ever do without SPLOST? There's alternative stratgies to defeating this or getting out. You always seem to use the word enevitable or sad but true. Didn't you say that for the last SPLOST? I like the words "other possibilities" besides raising taxes. By the way, what is Steele and others doing to raise the sales for Fayette county Business owners? NOTHING! How are sales in Fayette county? They all lay in bed at night thinking " how can we raise more taxes, not what can we do to improve business, jobs, or sales...unless you're a developer friend of course.

roundabout's picture
Joined: 01/01/2011

I agree with you on being on the ARC (Fayette). It is the only way sufficient roads bridges, etc., will ever be built--although we should have saved money to do it, not another sales tax.

I take it you are for two SPLOSTS, one for ARC and one for Us?
Then the state is going to raise the state sales tax, then the fair tax will come of 25% or so, and we will soon have 50% sales tax!
Corporations and rich dudes nothing!!!!

Not going to fly!

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