F'ville Mayor Steele: ‘Not committed to regional tax — yet’

Fayetteville Mayor Kenneth Steele.

Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele said last week he is not ready to support a proposed 1 percent Regional Transportation sales tax, but if the project list has enough bang for Fayette’s buck, he would support it.

That project list will be voted on by a 21-member Regional Transportation Roundtable which includes Steele along with Fayette County Commission Chairman Herb Frady.

“I will support it if there is regional equity, and there is a project list that has direct benefits to the citizens of Fayette County,” Steele said.

The sales tax and its associated project list will be up for a vote in June 2012, and if approved it could produce an additional $7.8 billion dollars over a 10-year period.

The catch is that even if Fayette County voters shoot down the initiative, if it is approved by the majority of voters in all 10 counties counted together, the tax will be assessed in all 10 counties, even in the ones that voted against the tax.

Fayette County is estimated to chip in some $205 million, just 2.6 percent of the overall revenue. But Steele said it’s important for Fayette County to have its transportation needs addressed too.

As such, Steele said he is committed to working with his roundtable counterparts to make sure the project list benefits Fayette County.

Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix has argued that Fayette County won’t get any projects funded by the tax except for a 15 percent “pot” that is required by law to go back to the county, which will net an estimated $46 million.

The cities and county will be able to spend their share of the $46 million on any local transportation projects they choose, according to state transportation officials.

Haddix has said he prefers to pass a local SPLOST instead that the county would have sole control over, instead of the regional T-SPLOST, which would be administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Haddix also has argued that the sales tax could be used to force public transportation such as rail and bus service on Fayette County.

Haddix was originally elected to serve on the roundtable, but was unceremoniously removed by a vote of three of Fayette’s mayors after he strongly advocated Fayette County leaving the Atlanta Regional Commission for the adjacent Three Rivers Regional Commission on the theory that the tax was far less likely to pass in the Three Rivers district.

When Haddix was voted off the roundtable, Steele was selected to take his place.

Funds from the regional T-SPLOST, if passed, could be used on not just new roads and maintenance of existing roads, but also on new transit construction along with operations and maintenance of existing or future transit agencies.

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