What would you think about a tax that substantially improves our transportation but is mostly funded by citizens from other counties?
One of the best things about living here in Coweta County is the commitment of our citizens to the steady improvement of our community. It is rare to find a community where citizens so consistently support local charities, new and exciting cultural and social activities, and developmental initiatives that are proposed by their government leaders. Coweta County residents have shown that the continuous improvement of the environment in which we live; is just part of our nature.
I have always believed that a great community has to invest in five key areas: 1) public safety, 2) education, 3) transportation infrastructure 3) outdoor recreation, and 5) cultural and social experiences. Together we have all invested in our community and have seen the positive results that come from that investment.
Because the quality of life in our county is so good we have seen unprecedented growth in the number of our citizens. Simply put, the great environment in which we live is not only good for us but it is extremely attractive to others. This growth has been good for our county in many ways, but the growth has also created challenges that must be addressed so that the standard of living we enjoy is not degraded. Probably the biggest challenge created by this growth is the pressure it has put on our local transportation infrastructure. If we are to maintain the lifestyle we enjoy here in Coweta, we have to make new, thoughtful, and intelligent investments in transportation.
To oppose investment in our transportation infrastructure is to stand in opposition to the maintaining the quality of life we enjoy and our collective future. Recognizing this, in 2017 the Board of Commissioners established a Joint Transportation Coordinating Committee (JTCC) to assess Coweta’s county-wide transportation system and its effect on our community. This committee’s work included numerous public meetings and an online survey to solicit public input. From that work, a list of 62 proposed projects has been developed that will address our evolving transportation infrastructure challenges. What was not specified by the JTCC is how these projects would be paid for.
We now have a referendum on the November 5th ballot for a Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax or TSPLOST. The TSPLOST is a one percent tax that would apply to most, but not all sales that take place within our county (TSPLOST would not apply to the purchase of homes, cars and gasoline). TSPLOST, by law would last five years or until $125 million is raised. Any extension would require the voters to reauthorize it.
I strongly support TSPLOST and encourage our fellow citizens to pass this measure in November for several reasons. First, the money collected by the county through TSPLOST is provided not only by our citizens but also by the many citizens of other counties who regularly shop here. Based on a very recent, independent study of Coweta County, roughly 77% of all sales tax collections come from shoppers who live outside of our county! Essentially people from other counties who use our roadways will pay over ¾ of the taxes that TSPLOST will generate, thereby supporting Coweta’s transportation improvements!
Second, under Georgia Law, TSPLOST funds cannot be used for ordinary operating costs or any other purpose. All of the funds collected are used exclusively for the 62, much needed transportation infrastructure projects that have been identified.
Finally, taxation of our citizens with TSPLOST is not only equitable but also provides a lower overall tax for our citizens. Let me explain why.
TSPLOST will raise approximately $125 million over the next five years to enhance our transportation infrastructure. If we were to fund this investment in transportation through property taxes instead of TSPLOST, an increase of around 5.2 mills would be required. To explain that in dollars and cents, consider that the average home in our county is worth about $178,000. The tax computation is done by taking that value, multiplying it by 40% and subtracting the $10,000 Homestead Exemption. That means the taxable amount on an average home is right around $61,000. A 5.2 mill increase in property tax would come to $317.20 per year (5.2 dollars per thousand or 5.2 x 61).
To pay an equal amount in TSPLOST tax, a Coweta citizen would have to spend $31,720 per year in shops and restaurants within Coweta County (31,720 x 1% = $317.20). That is a whopping $610 per week for 52 consecutive weeks! I doubt that many of us currently spend anywhere near that much each week, although I am positive that our local merchants would be delighted if we did.
Because non-residents also pay this tax and TSPLOST does not apply to the purchase of homes, automobiles or gasoline, TSPLOST is simply the cheapest and most efficient way for us to continue to invest wisely in our county.
Some who oppose TSPLOST have pointed out that Coweta County will now have an 8% sales tax in place. This is not unusual or abnormal at all. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 84 have a sales tax of 8% or higher. Using these temporary tax strategies is far more appealing to me than seeing property tax increase again and again.
If we desire to continue to live in a great community we must continue to invest in transportation. To fund that investment, our choice is clear. We have the choice of either a substantial increase in the millage rate, which will impact all property owners and any people who rent from them, or we can implement TSPLOST which will be a lower overall tax on each of us and will allow citizens of other counties to help pay for Coweta’s transportation infrastructure.
I have made my choice. I support the ongoing improvement to our terrific community, allowing non-residents to substantially pay for their use of our roadways and the use of TSPLOST for transportation infrastructure development. I encourage all of my fellow citizens to do so as well.