By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County officials are preparing to hold a series of Town Hall meetings to promote a new sales tax to be voted upon this coming March.
In a couple of week, Morgan County citizens will be encouraged to attend meetings designed to educate the public on TSPLOST (Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax), a one penny sales and use tax that, if passed, would increase the county’s sale tax from 7 percent to 8 percent. The referendum on TSPLOST will be held during a special election on Tuesday, March 19.
All revenues from TSPLOST will be used for transportation-related projects, infrastructure and expenses, such as road repairs, paving, and maintenance, as well as purchasing and maintaining equipment and buildings used for transportation needs.
According to County Manager Adam Mestres, TSPLOST is expected to bring in $18 million over the course of five years. Over $12 million of those revenues would be used by the county, while the rest would be distributed between the City of Madison, Rutledge, Bostwick and the Town of Buckhead.
Transportation expenses, such as road work, has proven difficult for the county to afford in recent years. The average cost to resurface just one mile of roadway is about $100,000. To pave just one mile of dirt road is about $400,000. The county has fallen short of road paving goals due to the increasing costs.
According to Mark Williams, assistant county manager, the status quo ends up being about seven to eight miles of road resurfacing a year, when the goal for the year was at least 10 miles. However, if TSPLOST passes, the county may be able to complete 20 miles of road resurfacing a year.
Mestres stressed that TSPLOST would not only enhance the county’s capabilities to fix roads and bridges, but it would also serve as a possible safeguard against property taxes increasing in the future.
“This would be a broad avenue for us to do all things transportation. It would give the potential to really put us into the future,” said Mestres. “And the more revenue we have flowing in from other sources besides property taxes reduces additional reliance on future property taxes for projects we are going to have to do anyway.”
Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce cited a study from the University of Georgia that indicated 25-30 percent of the TSPLOST revenues would be paid by out-of-town visitors or motorists passing through Morgan County.
Mestres hopes the informational sessions, which will be sponsored by the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, will give citizens the opportunity to familiarize themselves with TSPLOST before the vote.
“We also want input from the public on how to use this money and we will be doing a comprehensive road study as well,” said Mestres.
If TSPLOST passes in March, collection would begin on July 1, 2019.
Six Town Hall meetings, sponsored by the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce will be held throughout January and February.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, a TSPLOST meeting will be held in the Madison City Meeting Hall at 5:30 p.m. The meeting hall is located at 160 North Main Street Suite 400 in Madison. A second TSPOST meeting will be held at the City of Madison meeting hall on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, a TSPLOST meeting will be held at the Rutledge City Hall at 5:30 p.m. The new Rutledge City Hall is in the old Bank of Madison building in Rutledge located at 105 Newborn Road in Rutledge.
On Thursday, Jan 31 at 5:30 p.m., a TSPLOST meeting will be held at Bostwick’s City Hall located inside the Susie Agnes Hotel, located at 5951 Bostwick Road in Bostwick.
On Thursday Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. a TSPLOST meeting will be held in the Buckhead City Hall located at 4741 Buckhead Road in Buckhead.
On Thursday, Feb. 14 at 5:30 p.m., a TSPLOST meeting will be held at the new Godfrey Fire Station located at 2481 Godfrey Road in Madison.