06 Nov Three Things To Know About TSPLOST
Ready or not, here it comes. Election season is back. Athens-Clarke County residents will head to the polls on Tuesday to vote for the most recent ballot initiative: TSPLOST, or the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Here are three things to know about TSPLOST before you cast your ballot.
1. IT’S A TAX INCREASE
TSPLOST is a one percent sales tax increase on most goods purchased in Athens-Clarke County for either the next five years, or until it raises $110 million. If passed, TSPLOST would increase the sales tax to eight percent, meaning that Athenians would pay eight cents on every dollar they spend, as opposed to the current seven cents.
Critics of TSPLOST argue that increasing the sales tax will hurt the poorest Athenians the most, as sales taxes take a larger proportion from lower income earners than higher income earners. Proponents argue that the benefits of the increased funding would outweigh the costs of a higher sales tax.
2. IT’S A WAY TO FUND TRANSPORTATION-RELATED IMPROVEMENTS
The purpose of TSPLOST is to fund transportation-related improvements. Property taxes are a huge source of revenue for local governments, but ACC’s ability to maintain and improve its transportation network from that revenue is limited. This is because ACC is the smallest county by landmass in the state and nearly half of its land is tax-exempt, largely due to the University of Georgia’s status as a public institution. TSPLOST is a proposed solution to this dilemma, as it funds new projects with a temporary sales tax increase as opposed property taxes.
Supporters of TSPLOST say that the 19 proposed projects would benefit all residents of ACC, and that the thousands of visitors who use ACC’s transportation network each day will front 40 percent of the cost. However, some take issue with the list of proposed projects, like the allocation of $26 million for expanding the Firefly Trail and the Oconee Rivers Greenway. Critics argue that funding recreational projects like those at the expense of lower income earners is not in the best interests of the community as a whole.
Other important proposed TSPLOST projects include: Pavement Rehabilitation ($25 million), Bike Lanes and Infrastructure ($6 million), Hybrid Electric Buses ($4 million), and Grant-Matching Funds for the Airport ($1.5 million). A full list of projects can be found here.
3. IT’S DIFFERENT THAN LAST TIME
The last time Athenians hit the polls to vote on TSPLOST was in 2012. Back then, the TSPLOST initiative would have collected sales taxes from a multi-county area. This means that taxes taken from one county could have been funding a project in another. The TSPLOST proposal failed, as most voters in the region took issue with their taxes going to other communities.
This time around, a new state law allows individual counties to design their own TSPLOST initiatives. So, if passed on Tuesday, TSPLOST would ensure that every penny raised in ACC would be spent in ACC.
Be sure to head to the polls on Election Day this Tuesday, November 7th. All Athens-Clarke County voters will be casting their ballots to decide the fate of TSPLOST, and many will be voting in special elections for State House Districts 117 and 119.