ARC: T-SPLOST in '12 to raise $8 billion across region
If a regional 1-percent sales tax is approved by voters in July 2012, it would pull up to $8 billion dollars for regional transportation improvements in the Atlanta area, including Fayette County, according to estimates from the Atlanta Regional Commission.
But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the region’s needs for the next 10 years, tabulated at $106 billion, ARC representatives told the Fayette County Commission last week.
ARC’s Kathryn Lawler noted that of the projected $7-8 billion in revenue over its 10-year lifespan, 15 percent of the funds would be set aside for metro Atlanta’s 10 counties to share for any transportation use they wish even if those projects are non-regional in scope. Those funds would be distributed based on a formula that takes into account each county’s number of lane miles and population, she added.
The remaining 85 percent of the regional transportation SPLOST, however, must be used for regional transportation projects, which can include not just road improvements but also transit projects as well.
Fayette County will not be required to fund any transit or public transportation projects in its list of regional projects, Lawler said.
“There is no indication that you must or should consider that,” said ARC Chairman Tad Leithead. “There is no requirement that any county be part of any type of regional transit system.”
“I just wanted to hear you say that,” replied Commissioner Herb Frady, “because people are going to pick this up and read it and they’ll start throwing tomatoes at me.”
Public transportation projects have traditionally been frowned upon in the mostly-affluent Fayette County area.
Local governments will have input on the list of regional projects that will be tied to the vote on the regional transportation special purpose local option sales tax, Lawler said. The state’s transportation planning director will cull a list of projects but the final vote rests with a “roundtable” group consisting of 21 members including the county commission chairmen of each county, an elected mayor from each county and the mayor of Atlanta.
The legislation that created the potential for the regional transportation SPLOST contains penalties for regions which fail to adopt it, as such areas will see their local match for state transportation projects rise from 20 percent to 30 percent. Conversely there is a built-in benefit for regions which approve the regional transportation SPLOST: their local match for projects will shrink from 20 percent to 10 percent, Lawler explained.
If a regional transportation SPLOST is approved, a citizen review panel will be created to oversee implementation of the project list, Lawler said. That review panel will have the power to ask for information from any state agency at any time “to make sure that what is promised actually gets delivered,” Lawler said.
The enabling legislation for the regional transportation SPLOST also allows individual counties to have a referendum on whether or not they can join the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), but none of the counties will be required to have such a vote.
The regional transportation SPLOST, however, is a mandatory vote and will be taken as a region-wide referendum in July 2012. The votes will be tabulated region-wide, meaning they will be aggregated to determine the result.
As a consequence of that vote tabulation process, it is possible that a county like Fayette could vote down the new tax, but if the entire region votes for it, Fayette like the other nine counties in the region would have to assess the new sales tax.