COVINGTON, Ga. — Covington City Council members voted unanimously Monday to join an intergovernmental agreement to benefit from a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) in Newton County that could generate up to $56 million over five years.
By nature of the agreement, the city of Covington would be subject to receive 18.47% of the new 1% sales tax — about $10.3 million — to be used for transportation projects. How the money will be shared is based on an agreed formula that has been used with other sales tax collections, which is generally based on population.
In joining the agreement, the council also approved how revenue from the proposed sales tax increase would be put to use.
For roads, a total of $5.75 million would be allotted to general safety improvements, intersection improvements and paving.
A total of $1 million would be set aside for implementation of the city’s Airport Master Plan, $1 million would go toward public parking and infrastructure projects and $750,000 would be used for sidewalks and paved trails.
Finally, a total of $1.5 million would go to bridge construction and maintenance. The city has plans to build a pedestrian bridge on Emory Street over I-20, but those plans were almost taken off the table. After an unofficial vote of the council to remove the bridge project was split 3-3, Mayor Steve Horton broke the tie and elected to stick with the initial plan for the bridge. He cited pedestrian safety being a major concern in that area as his reasoning.
“I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about how unsafe that [area] was,” Horton said. “There’s a lot of foot traffic between the south side of I-20 and the north side of I-20, and that’s just involving Covington residents that travel by foot.”
To impose a 1% TSPLOST, state law requires all six cities within Newton County to be part of an intergovernmental agreement to share in the proceeds and pay for transportation projects they publicly specified. If one or more cities elect not to participate, the referendum could only call for a 0.75% sales tax, which would reduce the amount of money collected by 25%.
As previously reported by The Covington News, the Mansfield City Council voted 3-1 against being a part of the agreement Monday but will hold special-called meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. to reconsider.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners plans to meet Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss and potentially approve the request to place the new sales tax referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot.
If electors approve the sales tax increase, Newton County shoppers would pay a total of 8% sales tax, including the 1% TSPLOST, 1% SPLOST, 1% Local Option Sales Tax, 1% Education SPLOST and a 4% state sales tax.