Committee mulling how to use proposed tax revenue

Committee mulling how to use proposed tax revenue

Meetings are under way on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax county officials hope voters approve in December.

The proposed tax is a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) that would be used to fund capital projects.

County officials say the proposed 1 percent SPLOST would generate more than $540 million over five years countywide. Those funds would be divided among DeKalb County and its cities according to population. 

In his recent state of the county address, interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May said the SPLOST is needed because of the county’s needs for road paving and other capital projects such as police precincts and fire stations.

The SPLOST “will allow us to address that entire backlog,” May said. “I really believe that it’s going to help us build a strong foundation.”

In fact the SPLOST is so important, May said, it would be a major focus of the remainder of his term in office.

“We’ve really come to the point now that if we don’t address our infrastructure needs now, we’re going to have a crumbling DeKalb County,” May said. “We’ve got to deal with it now. We’ve got to take care of home first.”

If approved, county officials project that SPLOST, along with an equalized homestead option sales tax, would generate approximately $551.8 million for capital projects in its first five years. Of that amount, DeKalb’s cities would share $173.6 million, while approximately $376.7 million would go to unincorporated areas of the county.

The county’s anticipated SPLOST is more than $300 million short of the county’s “unrestrained project list,” or wish list, compiled by the county’s department heads who have $683.5 million on their various lists.

The DeKalb SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee, with members appointed by commissioners and the interim county CEO, has been tasked to narrow that list to “projects that we all endorse,” said Zach Williams, the county’s chief operating officer.

Robert Miller, a member of the DeKalb SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee, recently pointed out that there will not be enough funding for roads, much less other projects.

“We’re working off of the premise that we’re going to have money to actually do projects,” Miller said during a March 16 committee meeting. “From what I can tell, the practical reality is that we have none.”

“After Tucker is incorporated the county is going to have about 1,800 miles of streets,” Miller said. “The streets have an average life of about 15-18 years, which means we need to be milling and repaving about 100 to 120 miles a year. Currently we’re about 400 miles behind and that’s because it hasn’t been done.”

Miller quoted a $440,000 a mile cost to repave roads.

“That means we need to be budgeting $44 million to $52 million a year just in roads just to keep the roads up,” he said, adding that there is a $175 million backlog of roads.

“The trouble that I’m having with this whole process is that all the department heads can come up and throw out fun dream projects but we’re not even doing the basics of the requirements of the county government,” Miller said. “To me the roads would be a fundamental job of the county government.”

SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee member Alice Bussey had another complaint about the process of choosing projects.

“We seem to be focused on upgrading [and] fixing up facilities that have been there 25 or more years without consideration of the underserved areas that have nothing,” Bussey said. “There is a need because areas have been neglected. They haven’t had anything for 25 years.”

The next meeting of the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee is March 30, from 6 to 8 p.m., at 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur.

The recommended project list is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Commissioners on May 17. 

 

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  1. Iva Ben Hadd says:

    That means that The Board of Crooks is tiring real hard to figure out how to get their food paid for by we citizens again !!!

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