ALBANY — Now that a 1-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation projects is being collected in Dougherty County, the proof is in the paving – or the street resurfacing and sidewalk improvements – for officials to show the value of the levy.
When collection of the transportation special purpose local option sales tax began July 1, it boosted the total sales tax rate in the county to 8 cents on the dollar for most goods and services purchased. Four percent of that amount is state sales taxes, with the other 4% going to the city, county and Dougherty County School System.
Voters approved the additional penny in sales taxes for transportation by a narrow margin in April, with 2,104 voting yes and no votes totaling 1,935.
Both the city of Albany and Dougherty County have earmarked the vast majority of projected funds, $21 million and $10 million, respectively, to road and street improvements. That represents 39% of the city’s estimated $53.6 million in collections and 38% of the county’s anticipated $26.4 million.
The tax is expected to raise about $80 million over five years and will be split with 67% going to the city and 33% going to the county.
“Resurfacing is the primary purpose for us,” city of Albany Finance Director Derrick Brown said. “I think the one thing we hear the most complaints about is the condition of our streets. I think that (improvement) is what citizens will see first.”
City officials have said they hope to target the “worst of the worst” city streets and ultimately put all roadways on a regular rotation of resurfacing so that they don’t reach the current state of deterioration again.
A project halfway completed at this time includes 32 miles of resurfacing on 49 streets throughout Albany. Before the project began, about 164 miles of streets in the city were rated as “very poor” after an internal audit, and that number should stand at 114 at its completion.
The city expects T-SPLOST funding, along with other local and state funding sources, to help cover the resurfacing of that remaining mileage.
In addition, the city’s expected spending includes: $5 million (9% of estimated collections) each for sidewalk installation, intersection improvements, and alley paving; $4.9 million for pedestrian upgrades; $4.2 million for multipurpose trails; $3.5 million for airport improvements; $1 million for downtown sidewalk improvements, and $700,000 for unpaved streets.
Dougherty County plans to spend $7 million on multipurpose trails; $3.5 million for paving alleys; $3 million for intersection improvements, road projects and traffic calming; $1.4 million on sidewalk installation; $1 million for road striping, and $500,000 on signage.
While allowing the city to tackle rough streets and potholes, the T-SPLOST will help free up other tax funds to tackle other pressing issues like sewer improvements and storm drainage, Brown said.
As is the case with other sales taxes, people who visit and spend money in Albany-Dougherty County will help fund the T-SPLOST, the Finance director said, and help address the roads used by visitors and residents alike.
Officials realize that fulfilling the promise of street improvement is crucial to having citizens approve the tax again in the future.
“We heard it loud and clear, they want the roads fixed,” Brown said. “I think people will see the benefits of this in short order.”