Rome city commissioners want to talk about the possibility of a TSPLOST — a separate sales tax devoted to a package of transportation projects.
City Manager Sammy Rich presented the option during the board’s two-day planning retreat, saying the suggestion came from district officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“It’s another tool,” Rich said. “Nobody wants to talk about a new tax, but there has not been a good focus on transportation.”
City commissioners were noncommittal about their support but said they want to talk with Floyd County commissioners about the potential. The issue is expected to be an agenda item for the next Joint Services Committee meeting.
Commissioner Wendy Davis noted that a segment of voters say road projects aren’t “special” enough to be funded through a SPLOST, a special purpose, local option sales tax. And there’s another faction that thinks SPLOSTs should fund the basics like roads and sewer lines.
“A TSPLOST could be an avenue to discuss that,” Davis said. “The communities that did pass it now have these huge pots of money for transportation projects.”
State lawmakers set a vote on regional TSPLOSTs in 2012, with the provision that areas passing the 1-cent tax also would see more state support. Three regions approved shared packages and also saw their required local match drop to 10 percent for state money.
The TSPLOST overwhelmingly failed in the 15-county Northwest Georgia region, and the local match remains at 30 percent of the cost of a project.
But the Legislature included the potential for single-county TSPLOSTs in the Transportation Funding Act of 2015.
“You can do up to one cent, but you can also do it in increments like a quarter-cent on the dollar,” Rich said. “You can’t do that with SPLOSTs.”
Commissioner Randy Quick said officials would have to be “very specific” about the projects they would fund with a TSPLOST, which would be in addition to the existing SPLOST and education local option sales tax for schools.
The failed regional TSPLOST package contained projects in counties stretching from Dalton to Harralson County. There’s an option in state law to try it again, but commissioners agreed a multi-county approach would be unpopular.
“One of the saleability aspects of our SPLOST and ELOST is that it’s not a new tax, just an extension of what we have,” Quick said. “The marketability (of a TSPLOST) would depend on the projects put forth.”
Commissioner Jamie Doss said there are millions of dollars worth of road and bridge projects that could benefit residents and economic development. He noted that widening the Turner McCall bridge over the Etowah River is on the state’s list to fund, but not for years.
State and federal money also comes with bid and construction restrictions that extend the process and add to the cost. In contrast, the Armuchee Connector funded with $12 million from a SPLOST took two years to build.
“The positive aspect of a TSPLOST referendum is that ultimately the voters decide if we need it or not,” Doss said.