Representatives of Coweta County and its cities will be meeting Wednesday evening to vote on an intergovernmental agreement regarding a November vote on a transportation sales tax.
Officials from the county and municipalities have been meeting to flesh out the list of transportation projects that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. At their most recent meeting on Monday afternoon, they reviewed a list of projects and learned the vote will likely be for a maximum of $125 million instead of $100 million.
The hard deadline for having the project list and the intergovernmental agreement settled in time for the TSPLOST question to be on the November ballot is July 16. The TSPLOST would be a five-year, one percent sales tax for transportation projects.
If approved, Coweta's sales tax rate will become eight percent.
The discussion and vote on the agreement is set for 6 p.m. at the county commission chambers, upstairs at 37 Perry St.
At the Joint Transportation Coordinating Committee meeting on Monday in the county commission chambers, County Administrator Michael Fouts shared that the total of the potential tax collection needs to be upped from $100,000 to $125,000.
The $100,000 figure had been used previously, but current sales tax collections indicate more than $100,000 might well be collected during the five-year period.
“We’re looking at the recent trend data,” Fouts said. “We’ve seen some increase in sales tax. We’ve been fortunate to have a strong economy.”
While the economy could change, planning for the TSPLOST requires some extra care.
The legislation creating the transportation tax for transportation requires that a maximum amount be set. The law also states that the month that total is reached, the Georgia Department of Revenue “will – the next month – stop collecting for you,” Fouts said.
“We could sell ourselves short,” he said.
A total of 13 city and county officials were present for Monday’s meeting. There was brief discussion about Wednesday’s meeting, but most were looking further ahead – to the actual vote or even the implementation of projects as the money begins to be collected and disbursed.
Funds will be allocated based on population with 2018 census estimates being used. The proposed project list calls for distribution of funds as follows: Haralson, $165,393.79; Turin, $297,366.04; Sharpsburg, $311,077.44; Moreland, $384,776.23; Palmetto, $437,907.91; Grantville, $2,801,410.90; Senoia, $3,725,216.64; Newnan, $34,093,402.07; and Coweta County, $82,783,448.97.
Sharpsburg Mayor Blue Cole noted the total of the projects is less than the projected collections. Fouts said some of the current projects are designated for engineering only, but excess collections could be used toward construction on those projects.
“To see the gap between the projection and the total amount is good. You always want to have a buffer. I like knowing there’s a gap between what we’re planning to do and what we’re planning to bring in,” Cole said.
Fouts said up to $55 million could be borrowed against the collections by cities or the county, but he urged caution until the money actually begins to be collected.
“Once they begin, we’ll have a better feel,” he said.
Fouts also suggested that after the vote, municipalities report every three months on what they are doing with the TSPLOST funds and where their projects stand. At public meetings about the TSPLOST, a request from citizens was for regular information about how the money is spent.
County Commissioner Paul Poole made a motion to accept the proposed list of projects, which was seconded by Newnan City Councilman Paul Poole. The vote was unanimous.
“I want to thank everybody who’s been involved,” Poole said. “We need this money.”
The huge cost of transportation projects makes funding many of them impossible without the TSPLOST, Poole said. “It’s unbelievable what things cost.”
Plans are already underway for a marketing campaign to promote passage of the TSPLOST. Cynthia Bennett of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce said there will be a focus on making sure people in various sectors of the county “know how their quality of life is going to be improved” by the transportation projects funding by TSPLOST.
Poole said “bad information and no information” are what could torpedo the plan.
“Tell people how it’s going to help,” Poole said. “It’s going to take us all to explain this to people and explain what these projects are.”