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