Months after one word derailed an opportunity for DeKalb County to benefit from a $550 million special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST), DeKalb County officials will try again.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed two pieces of legislation pertaining to DeKalb County’s SPLOST. Senate Bill 143 amends the “tolled” language that sidetracked a SPLOST referendum in DeKalb County last year while Senate Bill 156 makes certain provisions on what the one-cent sales tax money can be used for.
In a press conference with media members May 17 at the Maloof Building, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said a SPLOST for the county could be a potential game-changer. Thurmond said roughly 85 percent of the proceeds from SPLOST would be used on repaving and repairing DeKalb County roads.
“We are focused and we’re working in a very positive direction to improve the quality of life for DeKalb citizens,” Thurmond said. “This [SPLOST] can be used to repave our roads and streets which are in serious need of repair.”
Thurmond said he was pleased with how DeKalb legislators came together to work on getting SB 156 passed.
According to the provisions of the legislation, SPLOST money must be spent on transportation purposes such as roads, bridges public transit, airports, buses and seaports.
Money can be used on capital outlay projects, with the requirement that the repair of capital outlay project expenditures do not exceed 15 percent of the total SPLOST proceeds. The county’s budget office estimates SPLOST could bring in an estimated $382 million for unincorporated DeKalb, but because of a tax exemption on food and drugs, the amount would be reduced by 10-percent.
Last year before a SPLOST option was put on a November referendum, DeKalb officials noticed the word “tolled” in the language of House Bill 596. If the bill was approved, a tax break for DeKalb homeowners “shall be tolled” or otherwise would lose their tax break.
DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon said last year was a learning experience.
“We’re ready to go. Last year was a good practice for us to get started and I think it helped us clarify our priorities,” Gannon said. “We clearly need to get the roads fixed. It’s the roads. We see that and we live that every day.”
Commissioners and the CEO’s office will get together in the upcoming months and plan on creating a project list. Gannon said it’s important moving forward to educate the public on what they will be voting for.
“It’s important that we’re all on the same page because my hope is this will be our first time with SPLOST and everyone sees the benefits,” Gannon said. “The other counties have been doing SPLOST for 15-plus years and you see the progress that they’ve made, not just in roads but various other facilities and that’s a huge deficit in DeKalb County.”
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