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T-SPLOST on July 31 ballot

Pike County, along with nine other counties in the region, will vote July 31 on the Transportation Investment Act, or T-SPLOST, to fund state transportation projects in the area. Projects include road widening, maintenance, traffic operational upgrades, bridge improvements and new roads. Pike County, along with Upson, Spalding, Meriwether, Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Heard and Troup counties, will decide whether or not to approve the 10-year collection of a one-cent sales tax in the upcoming election. Local projects that would be funded if the T-SPLOST passes include resurfacing Flat Shoals, Hollonville and New Hope roads and adding two feet of pavement on each side and adding turn lanes at paved crossroads. The funds would also widen Williamson-Zebulon and County Farm roads. Unlike the current SPLOST, which has around $2 million allocated strictly for paving Pike roads, the T-SPLOST funds could be used to repair existing roads and other improvements as well as providing discretionary funds for local public works departments. The one-cent sales tax will be collected for 10 years or until the amount collected reaches the cost of the approved projects, whichever comes first. The sales tax cannot be extended without a voter referendum. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the T-SPLOST is expected to collect $947 million for the Three Rivers region which will be distributed to the counties in the region to cover the approved projects. Go to threeriversrc.com to find out more. Secretary of State Brian Kemp said on a recent visit to Pike County that the July 31 election is going to be an important one and the T-SPLOST referendum may bring more voters to the polls. ”Folks are going to have to decide the issue in their local communities and that seems to be a good process,” he said. “This is one of the big issues around the state in the primaries. The elections division is focused on making sure everyone is prepared. It’s going to be a huge year and a lot of people are going to be voting early.” Early voting in Pike County starts July 10 at the courthouse during regular business hours, with one Saturday of voting set for July 21. Since state gas tax revenue, the primary source of transportation funding, declines each year Georgia legislators developed a new way to pay for road improvements – the T-SPLOST. ”From this point forward, even as Georgia’s population is projected to increase by 4.6 million people by 2030, we believe our state gas-tax revenue will likely remain relatively flat, with only slight increases over time,” said Todd Long, director of planning for the DOT. “This is due to increased fuel efficiency and the fact that people simply don’t drive as much anymore.” The TIA stipulates 75% of T-SPLOST funding will go to the region’s list of approved local projects and 25% of the total revenue to go to cities and counties in each region to use for discretionary local needs such as road maintenance and repairs. According to former county manager Bill Sawyer, Pike could receive $700,000 to $900,000 each year for use by public works for road or bridge repair, equipment purchases or salaries if the T-SPLOST passes. ”Those funds can certainly relieve general fund obligations for those 10 years. If we have $1.5 million for public works we can either keep or augment the public works budget. In that respect, it looks favorable,” Sawyer said. If more than half of the voters in the 10 counties vote down T-SPLOST, then none of the counties would be eligible for funding for the selected projects. If Pike does not approve the T-SPLOST and more than half of voters in other counties do, Pike will still receive funds and have its projects completed. If more than half the voters in all 10 counties vote against the T-SPLOST, no county will receive funding.

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