Fulton County’s city-by-city project lists for its second transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax (TSPLOST) soon will be in the state’s hands.
The 0.75% tax, which would collect an estimated $546 million to fund each city’s transportation initiatives, will go to a variety of projects.
“Each city viewed TSPLOST slightly differently, which is great,” said David Clark, Fulton’s director of public works. “That’s exactly what TSPLOST is supposed to be able to do, allow for the flexibility for each city to apply the money towards whatever needs they have to their specific cities.”
Clark spoke about the county’s TSPLOST projects at the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ June 30 mayors meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the meeting, the mayors approved an intergovernmental agreement with the county to submit the cities’ project lists to the Georgia General Assembly so they can be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot as a countywide voter referendum and approved.
If passed, TSPLOST 2 would begin in April, a day after TSPLOST 1, which was approved in 2016, ends.
The mayors are expected to sign the agreement prior to the board’s July 14 meeting since it must be inked by Aug. 3 to be placed on the ballot. All 15 Fulton cities except Atlanta, which is doing a separate agreement because it has its own TSPLOST, are included in the county’s pact.
TSPLOST 1 is a five-year, 1% Fulton tax that provides funds for both city- and transit/MARTA-related transportation projects. TSPLOST 2 would last another five years.
But unlike the first tax, TSPLOST 2 would not have a transit component since Fulton’s mayors voted not to include one because some felt doing so would jeopardize the entire tax being approved due to some residents’ complaints about the lack of service MARTA has offered in the past few years, including the pandemic.
There are three types of TSPLOST projects based on priorities: Tier 1 (based on tax collections of up to 85%), Tier 2 (tax collections of up to 100%) and Tier 3 (tax collections of up to 115%). The county’s $546 million estimate for TSPLOST 2 would include both Tier 1 and 2 projects but not Tier 3.
According to Clark’s presentation, the Tier 1 and 2 projects are divided into the following categories: 31.7% for pedestrian and bike improvements, 27.8% for operations and safety improvement, 10.8% for congestion relief, 10.8% for maintenance and safety enhancements, 7.9% for bridges, 3.3% for quick-response projects, 2.5% for project management and $0.7% for bridges.
“At some of the public meetings I sat in on, a lot of residents expressed in an interest in bike and pedestrian improvements, and the cities responded to that by devoting a sizable portion of the money to those projects,” he said.
With the agreement approved and slated to be signed, Fulton’s next steps include a voter education plan it expects to implement from August through October. The county is partnering with the Georgia Transportation Alliance, a policy and advocacy group, on that education campaign.
Seth Millican, the alliance’s executive director, said the organization plans to fund and spend about $350,000 on the TSPLOST 2 education efforts, and that’s the same amount it spent for the TSPLOST 1 education campaign.
East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham warned for her fellow mayors and commissioners to be “intentional around the education and not advocacy, having a ceremony with all of us signing (the agreement).”
“Ultimately the voters will make the decision on the November ballot as to whether or not this moves forward,” she said. “I don’t want to have any issues around whether we’re advocating or just educating.”
In response, District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann said, “Mayor, we’re very sensitive to that as well. We focused on that five years ago and have every intention to do that – focus on education, not advocacy.”
Fulton’s TSPLOST projects
Editor’s note: The following list breaks down how much each city in Fulton County (except Atlanta) is expected to receive and spend on TSPLOST 2 projects, but only for Tier 1 and 2 projects (based on tax collections of up to 100%). Tier 3 projects (tax collections of up to 115%) are not included in this list.
Chattahoochee Hills: $3.0M
College Park: $13.8M
East Point: $31.8M
Johns Creek: $77.1M
Mountain Park: $0.5M
Sandy Springs: $99.7M
South Fulton: $90.3M
Union City: $20.4M