SPRINGFIELD — An option to improve traffic flow throughout rapidly growing Effingham County inched forward Thursday morning.
County Administrator Tim Callanan met with a variety of city and county officials at the County Administrative Complex to explain a single-county TSPLOST — a sales tax that can be used solely to fund transportation projects — and call for a finalized project list.
Effingham County is projected to increase its population by 25,000 by 2025. It currently has about 62,000 residents.
“I don’t think that’s (an optimistic projection) at all so, with that, we really need to get ahead as a county on our roads ...,” said Wesley Corbitt, chairman of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners.”
To qualify for a TSPLOST, which must be approved by voters, a county must already be imposing a regular SPLOST. Effingham County meets that qualification.
“(That) permits us to kind of meeting the pre-clause of it,” Callanan said.
Ninety of Georgia’s 159 counties have a sales tax designated for transportation, including 24 that use the single-county TSPLOST.
Callanan estimated that a one percent TSPLOST would generate $42 million over five years in Effingham County.
A county can’t enact a TSPLOST if it is part of a TIA (Transportation Investment Act) regional tax. Effingham County voters rejected a regional transportation approach in 2012.
A single-county TSPLOST can be levied up to five years at a fractional rate up to one percent in .05 increments if there is an intergovernmental agreement with qualified cities within the county.
“... every city will have to be on board for this in order to get it supported by the voters,” Callanan said.
The goal is to get a projects list finalized in order to put a TSPLOST referendum on the ballot in November 2020. Projects can include roads, bridges, public transit, rails, airports, buses, bicycle paths, sidewalks, right-of-way acquisition, drainage and more.
“All the money goes toward projects but you can do things like program management,” Callanan said
“In my experience — I’ve done two of these in South Carolina, they were seven years, I did one without a program manager to manage all the projects and one with a program manager,” Callanan said. I think that’s something that, as a group, we might want to look at because having a program manager substantially sped the projects along.”
Program management costs are typically in the range of 3-5 percent. Law also requires that 1 percent be retained by the state revenue commissioner to be paid to the general fund of the state treasury in order to defray the cost of administration.
Callanan estimated that a one percent TSPLOST would generate $42 million over five years in Effingham County. The tax collection could cease if it achieves the goal before five years elapses. The tax could also be renewed by voters before the five-year period ends.
The TSPLOST referendum would likely say: Shall a special (figure to be determined) sales tax be imposed in the special district consisting of Effingham County for a period not to exceed five years and for the raising of not more than an estimated amount of (figure to be determined) for transportation purposes?”
If debt is to be issued, the ballot must include the following wording in addition to the above: If imposition of the tax is approved by the voters, such vote shall also constitute approval of the issuance of general obligation debt Effingham County in the principal amount of (figure to be determined) for the above purpose.
Six items are exempt from TSPLOST. They are:
— The sale or use of any type of fuel used for off-road heavy-duty equipment, off-road farm or agricultural equipment, or locomotives;
— The sale or use of jet fuel to or by a qualifying airline at a qualifying airport;
— The sale or use of fuel that is used for propulsion of motor vehicles on the public highways;
— The sale or use of energy used in the manufacturing or processing of tangible goods primarily for resale;
— The sale or use of motor fuel as defined under paragraph (9) of Code Section 48-9-2 for public mass transit; or
— The purchase or lease of any motor vehicle pursuant to Code Section 48-5C-1.
Callanan called on Guyton, Rincon and Springfield officials to start working on a list of projects for TSPLOST consideration. He outlined several for the county, including:
ASH ROADS RECLAMATION AND REPAIR
— The county has 165 miles of ash roads. It is looking to repair about 40 miles.
WIDENING AND RESURFACING MAJOR COUNTY ARTERIES TO THREE LANES
— Old Augusta Road, Ga. Hwy 21 to Ebenezer
— McCall Road, Effingham Parkway termination to Ga. Hwy 21 (Springfield)
— Blue Jay Road (to be determined)
— Hodgeville Road, Blue Jay Road to county line
Connection between Effingham Parkway and Ga. Hwy 21
EFFINGHAM PARKWAY CONSTRUCTION
— Unfunded costs associated with construction ($44 million has been appropriated by the Georgia General Assembly for a project expected to cost in excess of $70 million)
EFFINGHAM PARKWAY WIDENING TO FOUR LANES
— Most cost-effective capacity increase of north/south arteries
During the discussion, Old River Road and bicycle lanes are also will be considered.
IF TPLOST is approved by Effingham County voters in November 2020, it would take effect April 2021.