Commissioners to ask voters for T-SPLOST in November

Photo of pennies with the title Henry County T-SPLOST (staff photo)

Henry County commissioners have approved a plan to ask voters to raise the local sales tax in November through a transportation SPLOST. The decision came unexpectedly during a called workshop meeting on June 10.

The exact amount of the increase is dependent if Henry County can agree to an intergovernmental agreement with the four municipalities—an agreement the board opted to go without during the 2019 negotiations for SPLOST V. State law caps Henry County to a 0.75 cent increase in sales tax without an IGA, but the board could ask for a full penny if an agreement is reached.

In a press release issued by Henry County, revenue projections are $204 million for a five-year one-penny sales tax or $155 million for five years at 0.75 cents. T-SPLOST programs are limited to five years in length.

Furthermore, the press release states next steps include staff developing a transportation project list and county management meeting with the four cities to discuss the possibility of an intergovernmental agreement.

T-SPLOST programs have struggled to gain momentum in metro Atlanta

Transportation SPLOST originated with the Transportation Investment Act in 2010. TIA directed the state’s existing regional commissions to assemble regional roundtables of local leaders and place before the voters a ten-year one-penny sales tax referendum. TIA failed in nine of the twelve regions.

Following the failure of TIA, lawmakers were forced to revisit the drawing board resulting in two significant events, both in 2015. First, the passage of the transportation funding act increased the state gas tax and provided Georgia DOT with additional funding for state projects. Second, the original TIA legislation was amended to allow single-county T-SPLOST programs.

Based on research by Moving Henry Forward, 93 Georgia counties have adopted either the regional or a single-county transportation SPLOST program. With few exceptions, these counties are concentrated in central and south Georgia.

Here in metro Atlanta, Fulton County was the first county to pass a single-county T-SPLOST in 2016. Since then, no other metro county has had success at the ballot box.

A referendum in Spalding County failed in 2017. Carroll County saw the same result one year later and Coweta County in 2019. Clayton and DeKalb Counties are ineligible to consider it because of their existing sales tax rate.

In one of the most high-profile votes, Gwinnett County voters rejected a transit SPLOST in 2019. Though the referendum was for public transit, the legislation that allowed for the vote was a modification of the T-SPLOST program.

Neighboring Newton County is considering a referendum in November alongside Henry.