Joint meeting paving the way for Grady TSPLOST

Erik Yabor/Times-EnterpriseLocal leaders listen as County Administrator Buddy Johnson speaks about a proposed TSPLOST. From left to right are Johnson, Whigham Mayor George Trulock, Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and Grady County commissioner LaFaye Copeland.

CAIRO — Local officials are moving forward with a plan to implement a one percent added transportation special purpose local options sales tax (TSPLOST) in Grady County.

Representatives from Grady County and the cities of Cairo and Whigham met Tuesday morning to discuss projects that would be funded through a potential TSPLOST and reach an agreement as to whether to press forward with the issue. The members present reached a consensus that the tax would be beneficial for Grady County.

A TSPLOST differs from a special purpose local options sales tax (SPLOST), like the one which Grady County voters approved in November, in that its revenues can only be used for pre-specified transportation-related projects.

“This money can’t be used for anything else but fixing roads,” said Grady County Administrator Buddy Johnson.

While none of the entities present said they had any plans of constructing new roads with a TSPLOST, there were plenty ideas of what could be done to improve the county’s existing infrastructure. There are plenty of existing streets and sidewalks around Cairo that could be repaired or repaved, City Manager Chris Addleton said, and the same could be said for the county.

“We’ll run out of money before projects,” Johnson added.

Present at Tuesday’s meeting were Johnson, Addleton, Whigham Mayor George Trulock, county clerk John White, county finance director Holly Murkerson, and county commissioners Keith Moye, Phillip Drew and LaFaye Copeland.

Prior to implementation, the TSPLOST will require approval from Grady County voters in a referendum. County Administrator Buddy Johnson said such a vote would likely take place in May, though that’s dependent upon how quickly the intergovernmental agreement can be ratified.

Johnson said he was confident last year that voters would approve the SPLOST, in part because it was a continuation of an existing tax rather than a new added tax. This time around, the county administrator isn’t so sure.

In an effort to drive home what they beleive is the importance of passing the TSPLOST, the officials present at the meeting discussed the possibility of hosting joint public meetings to make their case to voters.

In order for the item to be placed on the ballot, the individual governmental entities will each have to vote to sign on to a formal agreement. Johnson said the Grady County Board of Commissioners will hold such a vote as soon as possible, and Addleton said the city council will likely have its own vote on the matter in February.

Once each entity has signed on to the agreement, a resolution will be drafted and submitted to the county elections supervisor.

Revenues can likely be collected from the tax as early as this year, Johnson said.

If approved by voters, the five-year TSPLOST is expected to generate about $3 million in revenue per year. Those revenues would then be split between the county and cities based on population sizes for projects such as road repairs and pavings. That breakdown would be based on the 2010 Census, the same data which was used for last year’s SPLOST.

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