CONYERS -- Josie Dean, organizer of the Rockdale Think Tank, is spearheading a protest effort against the T-SPLOST referendum that will be on the July 31 ballot.
Dean said she and members of other civic and political organizations are planning to protest the referendum on July 10, at 9 a.m., in front of 901 Main St., the Rockdale County Assembly Hall, just prior to the 10 a.m. Board of Commissioners meeting.
Dean likened opposition to the T-SPLOST to a "David and Goliath" clash, with taxpayers in Rockdale going up against DeKalb, Fulton and other metro counties. Rockdale is included in the T-SPLOST Atlanta Region, which also includes Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties and the city of Atlanta.
The basis for the opposition in Rockdale, Dean said, is that Rockdale taxpayers will be asked to pay more over the course of the tax than they are likely to see in return.
State economists predict that $6.14 billion will be generated in the Atlanta Region over 10 years by the sales tax. The funds will be used for transportation projects throughout the 10-county region and the city of Atlanta.
Rockdale County is expected to generate $104 million over the course of 10 years and should receive $94.3 million in road projects, making Rockdale what some would call a "donor county."
Dean said Rockdale voters should not be asked to fund road improvements that benefit other metro area residents.
"The tax is to support Atlanta and people who go to Braves games and all those things," said Dean. "If they are going to do that, they need to go up on the Braves tickets."
Dean said she hopes to attract at least 50 people to the protest march to send a message to Rockdale Commission Chairman Richard Oden that they do not wish to go forward with the tax. The group already has a permit and signs that read "Say No To T-SPLOST."
Oden served on the committee that developed the T-SPLOST project list for the Atlanta region and is a vocal supporter of the referendum.
Don Meyer, president of the South Rockdale Civic Association, said he plans to participate in the protest. Meyer said there hasn't been time for the group to meet to formally vote on a resolution, although he noted that there are no members of the SRCA board of directors who individually support T-SPLOST.
"We haven't formed a formal position," Meyer said. "We are just going to notify all the members and honorary members that the protest is being held and they are more than welcome to take part in it, rain or shine."
Don Williamson, chairman of the Rockdale Republican Party, sent out an email this week calling on members to vote against the T-SPLOST. The email noted Tuesday's anti-T-SPLOST protest and a "Defeat the T-SPLOST Rally" at the pavilion in Olde Town on July 14 at 10 a.m.
"Taxes are bad enough as it is, but we don't need to be giving our money away to other counties to help fund their projects when Rockdale has its own projects that can make better use of our own money," Williamson wrote in the email.
Projects on the T-SPLOST list for Rockdale are: extending Sigman Road to Hayden Quarry Road in DeKalb County; widening Sigman Road from two to four lanes between Lester Road and Dogwood Drive; constructing a non-access bridge over I-20; and widening Flat Shoals Road to four lanes between Salem and Old Salem roads.
Proponents of the T-SPLOST argue that regional projects outside a county's borders still benefit residents of that county. They point out that improvements are slated at four interstate interchanges -- Spaghetti Junction, I-75/I-85, I-285/Ga. 400 and I-285/I-20 -- which will improve traffic coming in and out of Atlanta.
"(The T-SPLOST roundtable) did discuss trying to keep things balanced, but they also realized that to build regional projects, they had to look more at what benefits that county's commuters than what is within the county," said Jim Jaquish, senior communications coordinator with the Atlanta Regional Commission.
According to Dean, other groups invited to participate in Tuesday's protest rally are the DeKalb County chapter of the NAACP and Unhappy Taxpayers and Voters in DeKalb County.