County leaders are supporting new T-SPLOST

Some of Grady County’s top public officials are supporting the new Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax even though they are not sold on this method of funding transportation enhancement in Georgia.
The Cairo Messenger polled Grady County Commission Chairman Elwyn Childs, Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham, Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye, Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and Cairo Mayor Pro Tem and Finance Committee Chairman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas, and all of them have voted or plan to vote in favor of the regional tax.
“I’ve had people ask me about the tax and what I tell them is that 92 percent of the money collected here will stay here, which is positive,” said Mayor VanLandingham.
The Cairo mayor served as chairman of the regional committee that selected the projects to be funded by the T-SPLOST if it passes in the 14-county southwest Georgia region.
“I believe we are one of the top six counties in the region of money staying in the county. My biggest concern is that I hope our local SPLOST will not be voted out when it come up for renewal since this new tax will raise sales taxes to eight percent,” Mayor VanLandingham said.
County Commission Chairman Childs said he does not hear much yea or nay for the tax, but he plans to vote for the tax and hopes others will as well.
“I’d rather pay an extra one cent and have our roads improved and maintained than to put it on a property tax. So many who don’t own property are using the roads and not really paying for the upkeep other than with the gas tax,” Chairman Childs said.
Two major county projects to be funded with the new tax, if passed, are the replacement of the bridge over Sapp Creek on Georgia Highway 112 and resurfacing of Old 179 from Whigham to the county line.
Cairo City Manager Addleton is not sold on this concept for funding transportation improvements statewide and he questions what will happen if some regions pass the tax while others do not.
“My concern is if some pass it and others don’t, how will the Department of Transportation deal with that?” Addleton asked.
Even though he questions the approach, Addleton has voted in favor of the tax and reminds local residents that there are a “lot of good projects locally.”
Regionally, Addleton thinks the Georgia Highway 133 project, which will connect the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany to military operations in Jacksonville, Fla., by a system of four-lane highways is important.
“We have folks in Grady County who work at the Marine base and it is vitally important to this region to maintain that base and not lose it in the next round of base closures,” Addleton said.
“I don’t have a clue whether it will pass or not,” said Grady County Administrator Moye, but he, too, voted in favor of the tax.
“If it passes, it will be a tremendous help to Grady County not only for the two major projects, but we will receive additional money from the tax that we can use for other roads and bridges here in Grady County,” Moye said.
Mayor Pro Tem Douglas would prefer the state use motor fuel taxes to finance road and transportation improvements, but he notes the only option available to finance local projects will be through the T-SPLOST.
Douglas is hopeful the tax will pass because over the 10 year life of the tax in excess of $15 million will be invested for transportation projects in Grady County.
“I am not sure it will pass locally but, hopefully, it will. I think it might pass regionally because some of the larger populated areas have more needs than we do, so it will have more of a direct impact there,” Douglas said.
“It may not be the best methodology for funding transportation, but I do not believe the legislature is going to increase the motor fuel tax to cover these selected projects so if this T-SPLOST does not pass, I would imagine that most of these projects will be delayed for years or never get done,” he added.
Douglas shares the mayor’s concern that future local sales tax referendums could be impacted, but he said, “Based upon my opinion, I think that Cairo and Grady County have always spent the previous SPLOST monies very appropriately. I hope the voters will support this tax as well as renewals of our local sales taxes in the future.”
The new one percent sales tax, if approved by the 14 counties in the southwest Georgia region, would generate an estimated $530,378,773 over the 10-year life of the tax.
The passage of the tax would make several local projects a reality including a $2,835,000 airport runway extension at the Cairo Municipal Airport; $4,118,065 for the replacement of the bridge on Georgia Highway 112 at Sapp Creek; $2,544,000 for the full reclamation, widening and resurfacing of Old 179 North; as well as other projects.
Of the total regional projects, $14,312,078 would be invested in projects in Grady County.
In addition to that, 25 percent of the total taxes generated are returned to local cities and counties in the region as discretionary funds that can be used for transportation projects chosen by local city councils and county commissions.
Grady County’s 25 percent share of the discretionary funds is estimated at $877,403, with the Grady County Commission receiving $718,451; the city of Cairo $147,805; and the city of Whigham $10,787.
Supporters of the T-SPLOST point to a Federal Highway Administration estimate stating that every $1 billion spent on roads and bridges supports 28,000 jobs and generates up to $2.5 billion in direct and indirect economic activity.
If approved, the new tax would begin being collected Jan. 1, 2013. Regardless of how Grady County voters vote, if the majority of voters in the region approve the tax, it will be collected here and the local projects will be funded.

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