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Discretionary tax list a must for leaders

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

Between now and July 31, you'll read a lot about the Transportation Sales Tax referendum in The Albany Herald.

Just this weekend, there was an informative piece from former state Sen. Michael Meyer Von Bremen about the T-SPLOST bill itself and how it was formed.

We're currently soliciting input from locals who are pushing the T-SPLOST and those who are opposed to the measure to come into the office for a special feature that will, we hope, ultimately give voters information that will be helpful as you decide how you will vote on the ballot measure.

A story from The Associated Press in Monday's edition of The Herald reminded me of a concern I've had about T-SPLOST from the beginning.

While the majority of the funding that would be generated from the extra 1 percent sales tax will go toward regional projects like the widening of State Highway 133 and the Westover Boulevard Overpass Extension into Lee County, 25 percent of the total will go as discretionary funding to local governments.

Experts will tell you that this 25 percent will be divided among the cities and counties in the region based on a formula determined by miles of roadways and population.

But one thing that the experts can't tell us is how that money will be spent.

There is no requirement in the law that I've seen that directs local governments to say before the referendum how they intend to spend their discretionary portion of the pie. By the very definition, the money is "discretionary," meaning it can be spent on just about anything that resembles a transportation project.

Bruce Maples, Albany's city engineer and the city's go-to guy when it comes to T-SPLOST, said that he and other city department heads are in the midst of compiling a preliminary list that will be presented to City Manager James Taylor.

"Right now we're looking at things that have been in the works for the last 25-30 years but that we've never had the funding to do as possible projects," Maples said. "And we're working with Public Works to look at streets that will need resurfacing over the next 10 years."

For those who are a bit skeptical of how local officials have chosen to use the government's spending authority, there is some small solace in the fact that the process in which the projects will have to be developed will have to follow the same process that they use to purchase equipment or resurface roads now, meaning it will have to be decided in public with a public vote.

That means that you, the public, will have to come out and voice your opinion "yea" or "nay" on how the government spends your sales tax dollars. I'll get you the information, but ultimately, the "discretion" is really up to you.

Contact government reporter J.D. Sumner at j.d.sumneralbanyherald.com.

Comments

whattheheck 2 years, 5 months ago

The stars must be perfectly aligned because we are in agreement again. Very good information that I did not know and do appreciate getting. As usual with any program, proponents don't explain the story fully and with TSPLOST, this again seems to be the case.

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