Not all of those projects will make it on the Nov. 4 referendum as Marietta is projecting to get just $56.2 million, or $11.2 million annually, from the special purpose local option sales tax over five years, if voters give the go-ahead in November.
Cobb County is projected to see about $437.5 million, if the tax passes.
SPLOST is a way for local governments to supplement budgets, which are funded largely by property taxes, by putting forth a list of projects, like government building upgrades or road resurfacing, that are funded under a 1 percent sales tax.
City officials say the Cobb Board of Commissioners takes the lead on SPLOST and has yet to finalize the decision to place the issue on the November ballot.
If the referendum were to fail, “We would have a serious funding issue,” said City Manager Bill Bruton.
A SPLOST is being collected now in Cobb and is set to expire at the end of 2015. Marietta is projected to get about $44.8 million from that SPLOST, which passed in 2011.
Voting on another sales tax before the one on the books expires allows local governments to not see a lapse in collections, said Mayor Steve Tumlin.
“You vote ahead of time so you can have the sales tax implemented immediately,” Tumlin said.
Projects must appeal to voters
Though the City Council will spend the next few months poring over the list to determine which projects are worthy of SPLOST funding, those selected are required to come to fruition.
SPLOST projects chosen by elected officials and presented to voters are legally binding and must be completed under state law.
Tumlin said that’s why the council will carefully review the projects they put forward.
“If all we did was fix our own roads, it wouldn’t appeal to the other 54,000 voters,” Tumlin said.
When voters do not feel SPLOST projects will benefit them, they are more likely to vote the referendum down or not show up at the polls, Tumlin said. That was demonstrated in much of the state during the 2012 transportation SPLOST vote that failed overwhelmingly in metro Atlanta.
Tumlin contends the city has been successful in piquing the interest of voters during tax referendums.
Marietta voters passed a SPLOST in 2011. They passed a $25 million parks bond in 2009. A $68 million redevelopment bond targeting blighted apartments on Franklin Road got the thumbs up in 2013.
Fire and infrastructure improvements lead way
Of the $300 million in potential projects, $17 million comes from the Marietta Fire Department.
Seven fire vehicles, totaling $4.25 million, and 15 advanced life support heart monitors, totaling $450,000, are among the items Chief Jackie Gibbs said Saturday his department needs.
The tax dollars are needed, Gibbs said, to supplement the department’s budget and help purchase vital equipment in light of budgetary woes presented by the Great Recession.
“We have tightened this thing to the breaking point,” Gibbs said of his department’s budget.
Gibbs has asked that 15 apparatus bay doors, which are similar to garage doors, be replaced at five fire stations.
The doors are many years old and used multiple times each day, Gibbs said, presenting safety problems.
“We also had an employee get severely injured, in fact he lost an eye, because the door buckled and glass just shattered,” Gibbs said.
Other potential projects are dozens of intersection improvements, street resurfacing, multi-use trails and streetscapes.
About $16.5 million could get an extension of Franklin Road bringing four lanes with a median and sidewalks. Another $13.8 million could construct a new road between Franklin Road and Cobb Parkway.
North Marietta Parkway could get a streetscape, including medians and sidewalks, to the tune of $14 million. South Marietta Parkway could get the same treatment for about $13.6 million.
But those proposals are still at the beginning phases of consideration.
“I think it’s one of the more challenging things to do, pick out those projects,” said Dan Conn, public works director for Marietta.