The Dunwoody City Council approved on Aug. 28 a projects list that includes transportation improvements such as paving and congestion relief as it prepares for DeKalb County officials to call for a special local option sales tax referendum in November.
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners was scheduled to meet with city and state leaders Aug. 31 to discuss moving forward with putting a SPLOST referendum on the ballot. The proposal would increase the sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent to raise money to be used for transportation and public safety. None of the money would go to MARTA.
DeKalb County officials estimate if the six-year SPLOST referendum goes on the ballot and is approved by voters, the city of Dunwoody would receive nearly 7 percent of the total, or about $42 million. The county decides how much each city receives, based on 2016 population numbers.
Finance Director Chris Pike explained that a detailed project list, such as naming which specific roads would be paved with SPLOST funds, is not required by state law. However, state law requires each city and the county to explain on the ballot what kinds of projects they intend to use the tax money for, so voters can have a general idea what kind of projects they would be voting for or against.
The projects list approved by the mayor and City Council states the city intends to use the funds to finance transportation improvement projects, including road resurfacing and replacement and rehabilitation of bridges; addition of sidewalks, streetscapes, bike lanes and multi-use trails; congestion relief to include possible road widenings and signal upgrades; and operational improvements such as intersection improvements and addition/extension of turn lanes.
“The council has set the level of specificity to a point,” Pike said. “We know we want to spend on these general categories, but have not identified a specific list of where [the money will be spent]. … This [projects list] is how we have spent SPLOST funds in the past and we will be doing the same going into the future.”
Money from the SPLOST, if approved, also could go toward public safety, such as purchasing police cars and renovation and repair of police facilities, he said.
“The bulk of the money, 85 percent, would go to transportation and public safety,” Pike said. “We can get more specific at a later date.”
Up to 15 percent of the SPLOST funds can also be used for capital project repairs, he said.
Pike said the county wants to put a six-year SPLOST referendum on the ballot, but to do so the county must enter into intergovernmental agreements with each of the 13 cities in the county.
The IGAs, which include each city’s proposed project lists, has to be wrapped up and approved within the next month to give the county the legally required 30 days notice before putting the referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot, Pike said.
If just one city does not agree to an IGA with the county, then the referendum will have to be for the traditional five-year SPLOST, Pike said. With a five-year SPLOST, Dunwoody’s portion is estimated at $35 million.
DeKalb County would receive roughly 61 percent of the SPLOST funds, totaling nearly $370 million over six years.