The city of Sandy Springs is getting over $3 million more than expected in the proposed second transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax (TSPLOST), which will begin in April if it’s approved to be placed on the November ballot via a referendum and passed by voters then.
“It’s a change that has occurred because of the updated forecast for TSPLOST 2 funding,” Marty Martin, the city’s public works director, said of the increase from $111.2 million to $114.7 million.
He added the new projections for the 0.75% tax call for Fulton County to get $545 million instead of the originally planned $525 million.
Martin shared the news at the Sandy Springs City Council’s June 1 work session at City Springs.
TSPLOST 1, a five-year, 1% Fulton tax that provides funds for both city- and transit/MARTA-related transportation projects, ends in March. TSPLOST 2, which would last another five years, must be placed on the November election ballot and be approved via a voter referendum for it to start the day after the first TSPLOST stops.
Each city in the county will submit its own project list for the developments its share of the tax will pay for. TSPLOST 2, which like TSPLOST 1 has a separate tax for the city of Atlanta, likely will include a 0.75% levy for the county’s cities and possibly up to 0.25% for a transit/MARTA component. TSPLOST 1 includes six Tier 1 projects, five Tier 2 projects and one Tier 3 project.
At the council’s April 20 work session, TSPLOST 2 included nine Tier 1 projects, three Tier 2 projects and one Tier 3 project. Under the city’s proposal, TSPLOST 2 calls for Tier 1 (85% collections) to be $82.2 million, Tier 2 (100%) to be $14.5 million (for a cumulative total of $96.5 million) and Tier 3 (115%) to be $14.5 million, for a total of $111.2 million.
Since then the city has offered myriad ways for individuals to submit comments on TSPLOST 2 and its project list by holding two virtual information sessions April 26, hosting a booth at the Sandy Springs Farmers Market May 1 and 8, distributing bilingual postcards and mailers to residents in local apartment complexes and businesses, sending mailers to homeowners associations, contacting residents through its social media platforms and sending news releases and placing ads in the local newspapers.
But despite those efforts, only about 50 individuals were among those surveyed in April and May, according to a document posted to the city’s website and used as part of Martin’s presentation.
“It’s just amazing to me that we got only 49 (surveyed). Just the apathy … especially when we’re spending $88 million (on the TSPLOST 2 projects),” District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett said after asking city staff how many ways the city contacted residents and how many flyers it mailed.
However, a Jan. 28 through Feb. 18 public input online survey regarding the city’s transportation master plan, which was approved by the council at its April 6 meeting, had 1,210 visits to the city’s website with 1,368 comments overall and 327 just about potential TSPLOST 2 comments.
Regarding the Tier 1 projects, on average, about 20 did not respond to the survey, and those who did favored the three highest-priced developments. For the city’s Hammond Drive widening program, which tops out at $38.5 million, 61% of respondents support it, 39% oppose it and none have no opinion.
For the sidewalk program, which costs $12.1 million, 82% of respondents are in favor of it, 15% are against it and 3% have no opinion. For the Roswell Road boulevard program, which has a cost of $9.7 million, 71% of respondents support it, with 29% opposing it and none having no opinion.
The majority of individuals responding to the survey were in favor of all proposed TSPLOST 2 projects, and the lowest amount of support came for the Roberts Drive side-path from Roswell Road to Dunwoody Place, where only 47% favor it, 23% oppose it and 30% have no opinion.
Based on residents’ and others’ suggestions and the added funding, the Tier 2 side-path/walk design was promoted to Tier 1, $500,000 was added to Tier 2’s Johnson Ferry Road side-path project, and in Tier 3, the roadway maintenance and paving project, which was originally the only development in that category, had its funding dropped from $14.5 million to $10 million, with the Powers Ferry Road side-path project added and getting $5 million.
The new funding totals for each category are $84.8 million for Tier 1, $15 million for Tier 2 and $15 for Tier 3.
The council is expected to vote on the project list at its June 15 meeting and submit it to Fulton the following day. District 6 Councilman Andy Bauman, whose district encompasses southwest Sandy Springs, said he feels the TSPLOST 2 projects favor the northern part of the city more than the southern portion.
“It’s approaching insulting,” he said. “I’ve been harping on this for a long time.”
Bauman added he won’t support the city’s project list until another $1 million is added to the $500,000 Tier 1 project for the Lake Forrest Drive sidewalk to cover the whole stretch of Lake Forrest. That sidewalk would complete an area he calls “the big square,” from West Wieuca Road/the Atlanta city limits north on Powers Ferry, east on Mount Paran Road and south on Lake Forrest, which already has sidewalks on the first three streets.
“That would provide safe pedestrian access to Chastain Park for hundreds of homes – perhaps over a thousand if you include all the people in the Roswell Road corridor who could safely access this as well,” he said.