EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series regarding a public forum held Wednesday on the proposed T-SPLOST as voters head to the polls during advance voting to decide its fate in the May 22 primary election.
A new proposed Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) referendum is on the ballot for the May 22 Georgia Primary Election. And already, voters are taking part in choosing whether to support or reject it during advance voting, which recently got underway.
Officials with the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce hosted a special meeting on the T-SPLOST Wednesday morning at Central Georgia Technical College.
In Milledgeville and Baldwin County, the proposed T-SPLOST includes four projects. If the referendum is approved by voters, the additional 1-cent sales tax will fund the following local projects:
- Kings Road safety enhancements, designed to relieve traffic congestion and improve economic development. The project has a proposed funding price of $6.5 million.
- Log Cabin Road widening project. It would provide the same benefits as the Kings Road project. It would include widening the two-lane highway to four lanes at a projected cost of $11.1 million.
- Widen and resurface North Jefferson Street at a projected cost of $6.8 million.
- Widen, resurface and create a third lane for a turning on busy current two-lane Dunlap Road at a projected cost of $4.1 million.
Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar explained that when the Transportation Act of 2010 was passed three regions within the state voted to support a transportation tax, however, the proposal was rejected by voters in the Middle Georgia Region, which includes Baldwin County.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 into law, which modified and expanded the special transportation sales tax originally created by the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) of 2010.
Afterward, the following counties that make up the Middle Georgia Region passed resolutions to reinitiate the process: Baldwin, Crawford, Jones, Macon-Bibb, Peach, Pulaski and Wilkinson.
Since the majority of the counties within the Middle Georgia Region passed the resolution, even the counties opposed to it are now involved and included on the regional investment list, as well as the local share.
So, what exactly is T-SPLOST and why is it so important?
The T-SPLOST is a 1-cent special sales tax that specifically is collected within a certain region if approved by voters, which helps fund various transportation projects within the region.
So, who determined how much money would be raised by the sales tax in the Middle Georgia Region?
Under state law, sales tax projections were made for every region in the state, which every executive committee and roundtable were required to use. The calculations factored in historic sales tax collections, population and income trends, officials said.
Hall serves as chairman of the executive committee and roundtable for the Middle Georgia Region.
Former Milledgeville Mayor Gary L. Thrower also was an original member of the group. Since Thrower no longer serves as mayor, the city has been represented at several meetings by Frank Baugh, who serves as the city’s public works director.
“In Baldwin County, we have 433 roads in the unincorporated area, and we average about seven miles of resurfacing per year,” Tobar said. “At that rate, every road in the county will be resurfaced every 62 years.”
Tobar pointed out that a lot could happen within a 62-year period of time.
“We average this at about $500,000 per year in just the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant receipts,” Tobar said, noting that’s a grant received from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). “You pay that tax at the gas pump every time you fill up here in Baldwin County. That money comes back to us and the city of Milledgeville.”
Tobar also talked about the discretionary funds that come back into the local community.
“This is the money that can be added to that Local Maintenance Improvement Grant to resurface additional or do other types of road improvements,” Tobar said. “But in our county, the emphasis is going to be resurfacing our roads.”
Tobar explained that the extra $1 million per year over a 10-year period would allow for the resurfacing of 14 more miles per year.
“So every road could be resurfaced every 20 years, as opposed to every 62 years,” Tobar said.
Tobar said 75 percent of the funds would go toward the big projects.
“A lot of this will go toward helping reduce congestion and improve economic development in the region,” Tobar said, noting the two county projects on the list, Kings Road and Log Cabin Road, were very expensive projects.
Milledgeville City Planner Hank Griffeth also talked about the benefits of T-SPLOST for the city.
“We want to share the same information with you about the city of Milledgeville — the incorporated areas of Milledgeville that Carlos did about the unincorporated areas of Baldwin County, just so that you can compare apples to apples and see exactly how the money is going to flush out for both government entities in the community,” Griffeth said.
Earlier in the week, Griffeth said he had asked Baugh if there was any way to determine the cost increase in resurfacing a road based on the length of time it took each time the road was resurfaced.
Baugh provided him with a graph.
“And basically what the graph says is that you lose about 40 percent of your quality in a road in just about a five-year lifespan,” Griffeth said. “So, if you look at a road being in very good condition from the time that you take the measurement and you extrapolate that condition out toward a 30-year time span, in between the 20- and the 25-year time, you lose about 80 percent of the quality on your road. And if you go from 25 to 30 percent, you lose the other 20 percent of the quality and you have to do what Carlos was talking about — you have to go in and completely rebuild that road.”
That’s one of the big reasons it’s so important to resurface streets and roads as early as possible, Griffeth said.