The TSPLOST referendum (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) is a result of the House of Representatives bill HB 277 and will come to a vote in July of this year. If the sales tax is passed by the public, this bill will add one penny to the sales tax and will be for transportation projects only. 75% of the funds are for state highway projects in the Georgia Mountain Region and 25% of the funds will go back to individual counties based on their road miles and population for local county road construction, improvements and maintenance.
Q: What are the Union County’s regional projects?
A: The first project is upgrading the Glen Gooch bypass to divert truck traffic from the square in downtown Blairsville and that is scheduled in the 2013-15 time frame. The second project is 4 laning Highway 129 North from Blairsville toward the North Carolina border which is scheduled for 2020-23.
Q: How were the TSPLOST projects chosen?
A: The TSPLOST legislation required that a Roundtable committee be formed made up of a mayor and commissioner of each of the 13 counties in our region, plus three Legislative members. This created a group of 29 members to discuss and select a list of regional transportation projects.
Q: If Union County votes TSPLOST down but other counties in our region vote yes, will we will have to pay the sales tax?
A: Yes. This is a regional vote. At the same time, if we pass the TSPLOST in Union County but it fails region wide, we would not have the tax. It has to pass by 50% plus one vote in the entire 13 county region if it is to be enacted.
Q: If we vote NO but the region votes YES, will our projects still be completed and will we get the money for local use?
A: YES. If it gets 50% plus 1 vote region wide every county will get their projects done and receive the local discretionary money based on the formula outlined.
Q: Will the TSPLOST sales tax be paid on food?
A: YES. It will be paid on the same items that our local SPLOST and Education SPLOST are paid on, which includes food. However no SPLOST is charged on purchases made with food stamps.
Q: How can we be sure that all the road projects that were chosen will actually be funded?
A: GDOT provided the funding estimates for the projects based on their recent experience of road cost. They have assured the County that these numbers will be as accurate as possible. All projects are projected to be completed on three scheduled dates. Should there not be enough money to complete a project in a particular County, they will only receive the amount of money on the list. Any cost overrun or revenue shortage would have to come from that County and not from another County.
Q: Will TSPLOST help reduce property taxes?
A: No one can guarantee a property tax decrease because of this new TSPLOST. However, since it will supplement the Road Department budget, it could take some pressure off property taxes if it were to pass region wide and certainly could have a positive impact.
Q: Why doesn’t the Legislature just raise the gasoline tax instead of adding a penny sales tax?
A: It has been said that it would take about 25 cents per gallon of gasoline tax to equal 1% sales tax. Furthermore, with the increase in efficiency of automobiles and with less vehicle miles being driven because of the economy, the 25 cent tax would not keep up with the transportation needs of the future.
Q: Will the TSPLOST become a permanent tax?
A: No. Although this tax is designed to expire after 10 years, it could be extended only if:
1. A minimum of 7 out of 13 counties request an extension of another 10 years.
2. That request must be approved by the State Legislature.
3. If requested and approved it must then go before the voters of our region again and be approved by 50% plus 1 vote region wide.
It cannot be extended beyond 10 years in any manner other than this procedure, so any extension would be the will of the majority of voters.
Q: How much control will the County Commissioner have over the TSPLOST money?