Majority of Cobb mayors approve of 6-year, $750M SPLOST referendum
by Haisten Willis
June 13, 2014 04:00 AM | 2868 views | 10 10 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — With a possible vote five months away, comments made by a majority of Cobb mayors indicate they’re behind renewing a one percent sales tax for six more years.

The mayors of Smyrna, Marietta, Acworth, Powder Springs and Austell all stressed that the project list isn’t finalized yet, but each said they support sales tax votes in general.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews was the only mayor to avoid answering questions on the topic Thursday. In an email to the Marietta Daily Journal, Mathews wrote, “I can’t believe you guys are trying to rush this story.”

Mathews said he would respond to the topic today.

Austell mayor Joe Jerkins, however, spoke favorably of extending the special purpose local option sales tax.

“It’s a good, fair tax; I think it helps us in a lot of ways,” said Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins. “Thirty percent of it is paid by people outside the county from other areas. It don’t hurt anybody; it’s just 1 percent and we’ve already got it in place.”

SPLOST advocates have long used the argument that 30 percent of the revenue collected for the sales tax program comes from people who live outside the county. But during a board retreat in March, Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director, rejected that number, saying his calculations show only 11.5 percent of people who pay the tax live outside the county.

None of the mayors who responded indicated they have an issue with a six-year renewal versus a four-year renewal.

“In my opinion, the taxpayer would be for or against it, whether it’s four or six, I don’t think would make a difference,” said Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin. “It gives you the ability to do more and better projects. If you started a project and only got three-fourths of the way finished, and the next SPLOST didn’t pass, you’d be up a creek.”

Mayors weigh in on BRT

Lee is also proposing the bus rapid transit project, which would connect Kennesaw with Midtown Atlanta, to be part of the SPLOST proposal.

Jerkins and Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood said they lean toward supporting the BRT. Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said he’s hesitant about the idea.

“If we lose the full SPLOST because there is controversy over the BRT, I’d say we ought to do the BRT with a different funding method,” Bacon said. “If there is controversy about the BRT being in the SPLOST, then I’d say it shouldn’t be in there.”

Yet Bacon said he is in favor of the BRT overall.

“We’ve been talking about transit for 30 years and nobody’s done doodly-squat about it,” he said.

“It’s a shame we don’t do something to help get cars off the road. You can’t just continue to widen highways.”

Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn said she’s waiting to hear more from her constituents about the BRT.

“If it’s helpful to our citizens, we’d be very supportive of it,” she said. “We need to have some more conversation.”

Tumlin also isn’t sure.

“The BRT will definitely be a hot-spot button,” he said. “The crowd I run with probably is not pro-BRT, but the younger folks, I think, would favor it.”

If approved, the SPLOST would raise an estimated $750 million over six years, or $125 million a year, according to Pehrson.

Mayors Tumlin, Bacon, Jerkins and Vaughn said they were mostly looking for things such as road and building maintenance and new police cars from their sales tax dollars.

“We need some road servicing right now,” Jerkins said. “I like that part of it; it helps us keep roads up to date. We bought a fire truck with the last SPLOST. We’ll probably buy another one if it passes this time.”

But Allegood, the Acworth mayor, touted a new downtown recreation center at an estimated cost of $8 million to $10 million.

“The recreation center would be located on property the city already owns at the intersection of Logan Road and Old Cherokee Street,” Allegood said. “We’ve got about 100 acres of dedicated green space with walking trails on the property. The state-of-the-art recreation center would offer services to every part of our community.”

— Emily Boorstein contributed to this article

Comments
(10)
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Cobb Taxpayer
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June 15, 2014
Of course these jokers want to tax again - they have no idea how to manage and get reelected without their employees voting for them. How about just manage the budget relative to the available revenue and return Cobb's public safety and infrastructure back to where it was.
SkipA
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June 13, 2014
Spend, spend, spend!! There is no limit on he government's desire for the people's money.

Why would Mayor Pat Vaughn be in favor of BRT? Powder Springs doesn't even have CCT buses. How would BRT benefit West Cobb?
Just Wait
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June 13, 2014
So much for Republicans looking out for the tax payer. Wonder what it would be like to NOT have an extra tax for the county and the schools. Might be able to afford to buy stuff then.
Cobb Cynic
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June 13, 2014
Just because someone calls themselves a republican doesn't make it so, seems for the most part their just stealth liberals. On the flip side, democrats have proven themselves by every measure to be incompetent when in control. A pox on both their houses! Its time for common sense solutions lets stop letting those "over-educated Ivy league idiots" control things, their failed overly complex solutions are leading this county to ruin.... My grandfather had it right, he often said that education didn't make someone automatically wise and if anything made the foolish even more so....

Be Careful
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June 13, 2014
I feel sorry for the people of Kennesaw. Mathews is a joke. I'm sure they can't wait to vote him out of office.

On another note, BRT is also a joke. We already have CCT which has failed by every measure of a mass transit service. It's 20 years old and still hardly anybody rides. We also have the GRTA express bus service from KSU to the Midtown Marta station.

WHY WHY WHY spend more money on ANOTHER bus service???????
Rick Z
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June 13, 2014
I think they should take a two-year break at the end of the current SPLOST. That would allow the transportation experts an opportunity to assess the impact of the Braves' arrival and the effects of both the Windy Hill improvements and the I-75 HOT lanes. I favor continuing to use local SPLOSTS for transportation but think they should take the time to plan the best use of it.
Cobb Cynic
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June 13, 2014
No more money for foolish, ill conceived, pet projects at taxpayer expense.
HotinAtlanta
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June 13, 2014
The BRT is a waste of tax payer money. It would only be an advantage to those who live along the line. Much like the CCT line, the rest of us would still have to drive somewhere to park our cars. There are much better things to spend our money on than BRT and the baseball stadium. Use it to keep our roads free of pot holes, expand the roads to include a "bike-only" lane (sick of dodging bicycles as most of them don't abide by road rules and weave in & out of traffic and blow through lights), etc.
Rick Z
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June 13, 2014
It's always the case that transit mostly benefits the people who live along the line. That's obvious. But if it is done well enough -- a big 'if' -- it can get enough of those folks' vehicles off the road to make the commutes of people driving through those choke points less congested.
SPLOST good
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June 13, 2014
I think SPLOST is a great thing because EVERYONE pays in. Anyone who shops is paying into the system. This is why Georgia needs to go to a flat sales tax, no loopholes for anyone. I don't agree with the BRT being included though. You will lose the vote!
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