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Commissioners move closer to asking Newton voters for TSPLOST funding

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton commissioners have taken the next step toward putting a sales tax for local transportation improvements before county voters in November.

The board of commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday, June 16, for a list of project categories that would be funded by an estimated $42 million collected from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for transportation — also known as a TSPLOST.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said he estimated a 1% sales tax over five years could raise $42 million.

Commissioners voted to approve the 2017 SPLOST Oversight Committee’s recommendation to list six general categories in which the projects fall rather than specifying the projects. 

The categories and amounts approved for each include safety/improvements, $1.9 million; bridge repair/replacement, $6.9 million; facility expansion, $17 million; intersection improvements, $7.9 million; paving or resurfacing, $6 million; and transit service, $2 million.

Specific projects are not required to be listed on TSPLOST referendums voters approve, Kerr told commissioners. 

However, commissioners also saw a list of 13 specific projects the SPLOST committee recommended be done, with highest priority given to a $1.2 million project to improve the intersection of County Road 213 and Ga. Hwy. 36 and a $17 million widening of Brown Bridge Road.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz told Kerr she would like to see sidewalk improvements included with any projects funded in the safety/improvements category. 

Kerr said a number of commissioners also asked for a transit service category to be included in funding from the TSPLOST, including Chairman Marcello Banes.

Kerr noted the money also can be used to create matching funds to secure a variety of available transportation improvement grants.

The next step will include commissioners calling a special meeting to create an intergovernmental agreement with Newton County’s six municipalities to decide how the sales tax proceeds would be divided up if approved on the Nov. 3 ballot.

County commissioners met with mayors and council members from Covington, Porterdale, Oxford, Mansfield and Newborn in late January to discuss how a TSPLOST would work and further develop.