By Andrew Cripps
Election season is underway as absentee ballots are already showing up in mailboxes. With all the drama surrounding the presidential and U.S. Senate races, I hope a very important local ballot question doesn’t escape your consideration.
Effingham County residents are being asked to consider a TSPLOST, a one-percent sales tax to be used solely for transportation projects within this county.
The chamber of commerce’s board of directors strongly supports a TSPLOST and encourages voters to approve it. We believe our county desperately needs a stable funding source for road repairs, improvements, and other transportation projects. This is the best way to ensure safe, serviceable roads and streets now and for the future.
Engineers for the county and cities prepared the project lists for this first five-year TSPLOST, based on projects they determined were urgent and necessary. Future projects will be selected based on a county-wide study of our transportation needs.
Right now, funds for local road improvements come mainly from property taxes. The City of Rincon has zero property tax and limited sources to fund road projects. The city estimates about 80 percent of its streets are past or near 20 years old, their expected lifespan. City officials have said they it would be a massive challenge to avoid assessing homeowners without a TSPLOST.
Effingham is the 31st fastest-growing county in the nation and is projected to grow by about 20,000 residents in the next 10 years. Industrial growth, a key to our local economy, will also add more traffic to our congested roads.
The Effingham Parkway will help address that congestion. While its construction does not depend on passage of the TSPLOST, it does require substantial matching local funds. The TSPLOST will provide a source for those funds, easing the strain on property taxes. It also earmarks funds for planning of an East-West Connector, an important element in the plan to route truck traffic away from busy residential streets.
There’s no question that the TSPLOST is a tax and some will oppose it based on that alone. But they ignore the costs, both financial and to our quality of life, that come with ignoring maintenance of our streets, and failing to prepare for growth. Neglecting local transportation is not a viable option.
Opponents also ignore that an estimated 24 to 35 percent of the TSPLOST tax collected will come from sales of natural gas to utilities located here that generate power for the region. That means households outside the county will indirectly pay a significant chunk of the costs for our transportation needs.
Transportation affects us all in Effingham County. We at the chamber of commerce encourage you to learn more about the TSPLOST before casting your vote. We have set up a webpage (www.effinghamcounty.com/TSPLOST) where you can see the full project lists for the county and cities, as well as the agreement between them to distribute TSPLOST funds in proportion to U.S. Census figures. (That’s another reason to ensure you are counted in this year’s Census.)
Andrew Cripps is the CEO of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce.