Chatham Co. leader pitches penny tax for transportation projects

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:30 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Voters in Chatham County could have an opportunity later this year to vote on a measure that would add a new penny tax to go toward transportation projects.

County leaders, along with those of towns and cities within Chatham County are making a wish list of things they could pay for with a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest projects they’re considering, including widening projects and a new interchange at I-95 and Airways Avenue.

A one percent sales tax to help fund transportation projects is something they’ve tried before, but voters rejected it. Chairman Chester Ellis says there’s a key difference that he believes will make it easier to pitch to Chatham County voters this time around.

Years ago, the idea was pitched for Chatham County to be a part of a regional transportation tax. But Chairman Ellis says Chatham would have gotten the short end of the stick, generating the lion’s share of the money, but having to share the profits with other counties. The latest iteration that county leaders hope to get on the ballot this May would keep TSPLOST money collected in Chatham County.

Chairman Ellis says TSPLOST funds would act as a gap-filler, helping to fund projects that aren’t fully covered already by other taxes or grants. And Ellis anticipates 40 to 50 percent of the TSPLOST money would come from visitors.

“The taxpayer themselves get to say what the priority streets are. Tier one was done by managers and mayors, but everything under that is being dictated by the community. Community organizations, homeowner organizations, clubs...and folks who live in the area,” Chairman Ellis said.

Chairman Ellis says the idea to pursue the TSPLOST measure again actually came up when they realized money from federal infrastructure payouts would not cover everything they wanted.

There’s a meeting next week where county and municipal leaders will work together on their wish lists.

Chairman Ellis says that’s roughly step two of a five step process to get the TSPLOST referendum on the ballot for voters to decide on this May.

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