We are on board with the regional transportation tax.
It is not an easy thing for us to say.
We are not big fans of voting on a new tax, especially a 10-year tax.
Before anyone says, “It’s no big deal, it’s a penny,” let’s be clear: It’s not just a penny; it is millions of dollars encumbered for a decade.
We are only supporting the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax for selfish reasons.
What are those reasons?
Simply, Lowndes County and the City of Valdosta will come out winners.
Both the county and the city got big ticket project lists approved by the regional committee, and both stand to benefit from some ambitious, and much needed, infrastructure improvements.
The state did not mandate this regional approach for road projects, but it came pretty close to doing so by keying the level of state funding to regional cooperation.
Size and location have certain advantages and though admittedly a bit selfish, Lowndes County and the City of Valdosta stand to gain appreciably as the result of being the epicenter of South Georgia’s metro region.
A sales tax, in many ways, is the most equitable funding mechanism and taxes more than property owners and residents. Roadway funding will also pour in through tourists, out-of-area workers and others who use our roadways and stress the infrastructure.
When we sat down with Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter and Valdosta Mayor John Gayle, they explained that among the 150 transportation projects on the project list, there are nine for Valdosta and 12 for Lowndes County, mostly big-ticket items. The 1-cent tax is expected to generate more than $296 million across 18 counties to pay for the projects.
One of the projects that made the list is installing an overpass on St. Augustine Road, which bottlenecks every morning and afternoon. Lowndes County has a project to widen Old Clyattville Road west of the interstate where the four-lane stops all the way down past Wild Adventures Theme Park to Ousley Road. Briggston Road, which connects Old Clyattville Road and Madison Highway, would get paved, making it easier to get in and out of the theme park and alleviating south-side traffic.
These and other approved projects would create jobs, build a stronger infrastructure and could potentially be a boon to the economy. If the county and city secure funding for local projects, we will strongly push for prioritizing the bids of local and minority contractors qualified for the infrastructure improvements.
We agree with Mayor Gayle who said, “It’s an economic development creator. The better roads we have, the better transportation we have, the more people will look at us.”
A T-SPLOST was voted down in 2012. Approving it this go-round, on the May 22 ballot, is an uphill battle.
Essentially, if voters approve the ballot referendum the local match required for projects requiring state-shared dollars, will be reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent. That 20 percent difference means more bang for the buck and represents a significant incentive for supporting the ballot question.
In Valdosta/Lowndes County, the sales tax would increase from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar. So, it’s hard to be in favor.
Still, roads and highways are necessary and critical for economic development. Public funding must come from somewhere and this seems like the best option.
We want voters to vote their conscience, of course, and we are sensitive to those who stretch to make ends meet and feel completely overtaxed already. The best thing is that politicians, bureaucrats and even the newspaper don’t get to decide this question. You do.
So, we will not say this very often but we endorse this tax.
Vote yes on T-SPLOST.