With a list of regional transportation projects finalized for next summer’s Transportation Investment Act referendum, municipal leaders now are prioritizing projects that will be managed locally if the tax succeeds at the polls.
And while municipalities prepare their project lists, transportation experts are doing their share to educate voters about how the tax would be enacted.
On Tuesday, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Executive Director Sonny Timmerman spoke to the Hinesville Rotary Club about how the tax would be dispersed and how municipalities can use the funds.
“I can’t say ‘vote yes’ or ‘vote no’ — but I can sure tell you what it can and can’t do,” Timmerman said.
The act, passed by the General Assembly in 2010, created 12 special tax districts using the regional commission boundaries, and each district was charged with developing a list of regional transit projects to be completed during a 10-year period if the tax passes.
The tax, sometimes referred to as TSPLOST, could generate an estimated $1.6 billion within the region over 10 years if enacted. Of that figure, 75 percent would go toward a recently determined list of projects with regional impacts, and 25 percent would be disbursed to municipalities and counties for transportation expenditures. The 1 percent tax would begin in January 2013.
Funds may be spent on roadway capital, transit capital, transit operations and maintenance, safety improvements, traffic operations, freight and logistics, aviation and road and bridge maintenance.
“This tax must be approved by a majority vote of the district,” Timmerman said. “Liberty County could vote 100 percent yes or 100 percent no — but the key is, within the 10-county region, it’s 50 percent plus one vote.”
Municipal disbursements will be determined by a formula that factors 2010 Census municipality populations and center line road mileage as recognized by the Georgia Department of Transportation, Timmerman said.
“The nice thing about it — if there’s a nice thing about any tax — is that in this particular case, the money stays in the 10 counties,” he said. Liberty County governments might expect between $26 million and $28 million.
According to projections from the Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, each government stands to receive the following estimated amounts over the 10-year tax period:
• Liberty County: $12,305,250
• Allenhurst: $343,484
• Flemington: $504,723
• Gum Branch: $169,627
• Hinesville: $10,115,507
• Midway: $632,561
• Riceboro: $839,330
• Walthourville: $1,337,403
The share for the county’s unincorporated areas would be about half of the total for all governments in the county, with an estimated $12.5 million over the 10-year span, Timmerman added.
During recent county commission meetings, Chairman John McIver tasked the commissioners with finding projects to be completed within their regions.
On Thursday, the commissioners will present their lists and hand them over to staff for analysis and cost assignment, according to County Administrator Joey Brown.
Staffers also are preparing a list of maintenance priorities in addition to those projected to be completed with SPLOST funds, such as bridge repairs and replacements, intersection improvements and roadway overlay and repair.
“Without the projected TSPLOST local funds, it is unlikely that these will be done in the near future,” Brown added.
Hinesville is going through a similar process, according to City Manager Billy Edwards. The council and staff are reassessing and prioritizing the roadway capital improvement plan and may add projects. The final list will be determined in a future open workshop.
While some say that the revenue could shave expenditures from municipal operating budgets, Edwards said that Hinesville does not have any operational funds allocated for transportation improvements.
It could, however, reduce maintenance costs. For example, the city has been putting extensive repairs and maintenance into South Main Street recently, but the solutions are temporary and will require long-term maintenance.
However, if the tax is passed, reconstructing the problem area would be a priority, which ultimately would save the city money on future maintenance.
“We wouldn’t be able to get these projects constructed without that tax — that’s statement of fact,” Edwards said.