FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Transit funding appears off the table as part of a new countywide transportation sales tax referendum this November.
Mayors from a majority of Fulton County cities voted thumbs down April 2 to include regional bus and rail funding as part of the official ballot question.
That doesn’t exclude cities from using their share of the money to help fund transit, though.
Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin said that in discussions with his city council, he wants to ensure that Alpharetta reserves the right to invest its TSPLOST dollars in whatever project list they can all agree on.
The 14 cities outside Atlanta are mounting an effort to give residents a vote to renew some form of the current transportation sales tax, or TSPLOST, after the current one expires next March.
The current .75-cent sales tax was approved through referendum by voters in 2016 and has brought in hundreds of millions in transportation dollars to local jurisdictions.
Cities are in the early stages of building their own project lists for funding if voters favor renewing the tax for another five-year term. Transportation officials estimate the tax would bring in an estimated $500 million to Fulton County jurisdictions outside Atlanta, which has its own transportation tax.
Although not unanimous, most mayors polled at the April 2 meeting with Fulton County officials said they favor continuation of the current tax of .75 cents on each dollar with proceeds divided among the cities according to population.
The vote was an almost certain death knell to earlier proposals that would have included a share of the proceeds earmarked for MARTA or other transit operations.
Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann had argued earlier that adding transit funding would increase the area’s chances of receiving federal transportation grants to help with other local projects.
Even so, the mayors indicated they wanted their city councils to have the say on how much funding went to transit.
Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said her city prefers renewing the tax in its existing form.
“We would love to see a [bus rapid transit] station in Roswell, and I think our council is willing to support that, but at this time we don’t have those guarantees, and council is not comfortable with just allocating 10 percent to MARTA to do whatever they may choose to do with it,” she said.
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said his city council is not prepared to endorse any specific sales tax option at this time.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said his council supports whatever option gets the issue on the ballot to voters.
“We’ll support whatever the will of the majority is,” he said.
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said the cities should now move forward with developing lists of projects they would fund with TSPLOST money. The lists will have to be shared with all cities so that an intergovernmental agreement can be drafted this summer and the issue can be placed on the November ballot.