A Butts County commissioner is proposing a new sales tax to pay for transportation projects, including a bypass around the city of Jackson.
District 3 Commissioner Joe Brown described the idea during a workshop meeting Dec. 11.
State officials in 2012 allowed regions across Georgia to vote on multi-county special purpose local option sales taxes for transportation, known as T-SPLOSTs, but only three regions approved them at the time. Voters in the 10-county region that includes Butts County rejected the tax, which was projected to raise $947 million over 10 years, by a 2-to-1 margin.
Brown said voters should be asked again in a new referendum.
“It seems like every time a group gets together, they say our biggest problem we have in Butts County is (lack of) a bypass. What are we going to do about it?” Brown said. “Well, in 2002 there was a study done and the county spent thousands of dollars to get the study done with the DOT and there was a bypass proposal that was done. …It was put on the back burner, from what I understand, because of funding.”
Brown said he believes that with local matching funds in hand, it could be easier to leverage state funding for a bypass project, in much the same way local funds and in-kind labor were used to jumpstart a project to build a convention center inside Indian Springs State Park.
District 1 Commissioner Ken Rivers said he agreed a T-SPLOST could help Butts County’s infrastructure, but noted the plan Brown referred to is 15 years old. He said the county’s transportation plan should be updated so that the county’s priorities are clearly defined. “A lot’s changed in 15 years, we all know that, and it probably needs a lot of adjustment,” he said.
Whether Butts County would align with other counties in the region to propose a multi-county tax, or whether the tax would be levied only in the county, was not immediately clear. When such an election could take place was also not immediately clear. Commissioners took no votes on the matter Dec. 11, but seemed to agree they would ask the county’s Transportation Board to research the transportation plan and a proposed T-SPLOST.
Voters in Butts County have recently approved two other SPLOSTs. An extension of the 1-cent tax for education was passed in March of this year by a vote of 753 to 122. The E-SPLOST referendum authorized the collection of up to $25 million but school officials estimate the tax will bring in less than that — approximately $18 million.
A 1-cent tax for a number of other county projects, including an addition to the Butts County Administration Building to house courts and funding to begin renovations of the historic county courthouse, is expected to bring in as much as $23.35 million over a six-year collection period beginning in January 2019. It was approved by voters in November by a vote of 1,066 to 209.