Coweta County’s Joint Transportation Coordinating Committee has unanimously voted to pursue a new sales tax to pay for road projects.
The committee, which includes representatives from all of the local governments in the county, including the Coweta County Board of Education, discussed calling for a TSPLOST – a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – at its meeting this week.
The newest version of the TSPLOST allowed under state law lets a county levy a fractional sales tax for up to 5 years. The tax can be a 1 percent sales tax, but can also be less than 1 percent. With an agreement between the county and its local governments, the 1 percent, five-year tax is allowed. Without an agreement, the tax can only be .75 percent for four years.
The next step will be for the Coweta County Board of Commissioners to call a meeting of all the local governments to discuss moving forward with the TSPLOST.
Newnan Mayor Keith Brady called for a TSPLOST at a Newnan Rotary Club meeting a few months ago.
“Part of what I had to say there is I thought that our county needed to call for the vote,” Brady said. “The reason I said it in such an open forum was because I wanted to get it out in the public.”
Traffic is a huge issue in Coweta, he said.
“Transportation is the No. 1 reason why people complain about stuff,” Brady said. The TSPLOST is an opportunity to create a revenue stream to help that issue.
“We need to start shouting this from the rooftops,” he said.
The city of Newnan has two major projects that need to be done: widening of Lower Fayetteville Road and the LINC trail system.
“They are tremendously expensive. There is no way we can do them out of just SPLOST,” Brady said. And there’s certainly no way they could be completed out of regular city revenues.
The proposed county-wide vote on the TSPLOST would be held in November 2019, with the tax taking effect in spring of 2020.
In the meantime, elected officials will begin to put together project lists and get community involvement.
Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts said the starting point for building the project list will likely be the county’s joint transportation plan. On the county side, the various roads to serve a proposed future interchange at Amlajack Boulevard, including the extension of Amlajack to Coweta Industrial Parkway and the Madras Connector, will probably be major priorities.
“We probably have time to put on a referendum soon rather than later, but that’s not how you get the buy-in,” said Newnan City Manager Cleatus Phillips.
“Trying to stuff it down somebody’s throat is not the way you do this,” added Brady.
Carroll County voters will consider a TSPLOST this November, Phillips said.
Several years ago, Coweta and counties all around the state worked on a regional TSPLOST, which had myriad restrictive requirements. The local TSPLOST would have covered the entire 10-county Three Rivers Regional Commission area. That vote, and those in many other regions around the state, failed miserably.
“The joint regional TSPLOST was set up to fail for a lot of reasons,” said Fouts. “I think the constituents in Coweta County were very fearful about the dollars being spent in other counties. That was a realistic concern,” he said.
With the law change allowing the more flexible single-county TSPLOSTs, “we’ve seen a lot of success around the state,” Fouts said.