COVINGTON -- There are several public misconceptions about the T-SPLOST program that is the subject of a Special Election on July 31, according to a Department of Transportation representative.
One misconception that has been reported is that counties that do not pass T-SPLOST will be punished with higher match requirements for state and federally funded road projects.
The only match requirements that would be affected are those required for the DOT's Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program, said Todd Long, deputy commissioner of DOT.
DOT distributes about $100 million throughout the state for the program. If a region does not approve T-SPLOST, local governments that are part of that region will be required to provide a 30 percent match for projects included in LMIG; if the region approves T-SPLOST, that match will drop from the current 20 percent to 10 percent.
The match required for LMIG depends solely on how the region as a whole votes, not how individual counties vote, Long said. Newton County and its municipalities receive between $850,000 and $900,000 a year in LMIG funds, Long said.
While the match for other projects outside of those on LMIG won't be impacted, GDOT says if the referendum doesn't pass with the majority of each region's voters, transportation projects will be implemented at a slower schedule and pace, with many projects remaining unfunded.
Another misconception about T-SPLOST is that "it'll never end," Long said. "The bill is very clear: The tax ends at 10 years or when revenue projections are met. If revenue projections are met at year eight, it ends. If they are not met at year 10, it still ends at year 10."
In order for T-SPLOST to be renewed at the end of the 10-year period, it would require a majority of counties in the region to ask the Georgia General Assembly for permission to renew it, and then voters would have to approve renewal, he said.
Project controls will be put into place to keep project costs at budget, according to GDOT's web site. Citizen review panels appointed by state leaders will monitor spending. If a project comes in under budget, the remaining money will be redistributed to the region where the project is located.
Another fallacy is that "somehow GDOT is going to make out like a bandit on this," Long said. "Money doesn't come to GDOT. It comes to the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission. We administer the projects with the local government's help, and as work is done we ask for reimbursement for expenses. This is not going to be a get rich quick scheme like some people said."
Long said there's also a lot of chatter from the public that their money will be going toward transit projects like MARTA, but, "Not a dime in the Northeast Georgia region can be spent on projects in the Atlanta region and vice versa." Newton is in the Northeast Georgia Region, along with Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.
Long said that DOT is not responsible for choosing the projects on the T-SPLOST list. That was done by local leaders. In Newton County, BOC Chairman Kathy Morgan and former Covington Mayor Kim Carter served on a regional roundtable that selected projects for the Northeast Georgia region.
T-SPLOST is expected to generate more than $18 billion over 10 years if passed statewide. The state has been divided into 12 regions that will each vote on T-SPLOST. Transportation revenues generated in the Northeast Georgia Region are expected to total $987 million over the 10-year life of the T-SPLOST, from 2013 to 2022. Of that, Newton's portion is approximately $120 million.
Early voting is currently underway in the meeting room across from the Newton County Board of Elections office in the Newton County Administration Building at 1113 Usher St.