facing their communities, the HOGA Region, and the State of Georgia which T-SPLOST can address.
“Without T-SPLOST, future transportation infrastructure projects will likely have to be paid for by the property taxpayers in our communities,” Vidalia Chamber President Michele Johnson emphasized. “This is not a new tax, but the continuation of a current tax. All funds collected in our region for TIA will be spent on transportation projects in our region. A penny goes a long way in our community.”
The transportation infrastructure in Toombs, Montgomery, and Wheeler Counties and throughout the entire 17-county Heart of Georgia Altamaha (HOGA) Region is in great shape and improving daily, she Johnson said. “But please pause for a moment to consider how the majority of our city and county airports, bridges, roads, and sidewalks projects have been built, maintained, improved, resurfaced, and widened over the last 10 years.” The Transportation Investment Act (TIA) of 2010, known locally as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST), has provided much needed funds to improve the area’s transportation infrastructure. The 10-year 1% sales tax to fund local and regional transportation improvements was introduced to voters via referendum in 2012 and passed in three of Georgia’s 12 regions, River Valley, Central Savannah River Area, and in the Heart of Georgia Altamaha (HOGA) which includes Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, and Wilcox counties.
T-SPLOST passed in the HOGA Region by a vote of 52%-48%. Since that time, the HOGA Region has successfully completed 601 projects with 141 more currently under construction. “The current T-SPLOST has collected over $290 million in total revenue of an original budget of $366 million. Upon completion, that penny of sales tax will have funded 27 projects in Toombs County, 31 projects in Montgomery County, and 18 projects in Wheeler County,” Johnson said.
In addition to the TIA funds to support the aforementioned projects, 25% of all tax collected in the TIA Region was redistributed to local governments (counties and incorporated cities) for use on any transportation-related projects they chose. The discretionary funds were distributed among the 17 HOGA counties using the Local Assistance Road Program (LARP) formula and allowed communities to tailor their contributions to local transportation needs. In some instances, discretionary funds were used to “match” state and federal funds that are the portion a local government must pay for the project. “The match is normally 30%, but counties and cities that passed TIA paid only 10%,” Johnson said. Under State law, TSPLOST is a 10-year sales tax. “Everyone participates via sales transactions, regardless of residency, so it is not a burden on a business owners or homeowners,” Johnson explained. Voters may renew the sales tax at the end of each decade. In HOGA, that opportunity will come for voters as a renewal ballot on May 24. County voting results will be combined to produce a regional total. If a majority of the votes cast in the Region’s election are in favor, then it is considered passed, and the sales tax will continue to be imposed in the entire Region, all 17 counties.
In the HOGA Region, renewal of the T-SPLOST will ensure completion of an additional 580 projects with a total project value of over $235 million. If the renewal is passed, 71 new projects in Toombs County, 26 new projects in Montgomery County, and 12 new projects in Wheeler County will move forward. “And the local community will continue receiving its fair share of future discretionary funds,” Johnson noted.
“These projects are particularly critical for our community and the entire HOGA Region because of its geographic location on the Interstate 16 corridor. Current supply chain challenges are projected to last well into 2022,” Johnson said, adding, “The Georgia Port is projected to process 7.5 million containers this year, an increase of almost 2.5 million over last year. With 80+% of those containers going on a truck, this economic development will create even more wear and tear on infrastructure on the I-16 corridor between Savannah and Atlanta.”
Meeting recently in Vidalia to launch the “TIA 2.0 Connecting Region 9” campaign were representatives of the counties in this region: Lara Bloom, CEO, Hazlehurst Chamber of Commerce; Paula Anderson, President, Telfair County Chamber of Commerce; Eric Smith, Local Manager, Georgia Power; Staley Bell, CEO/ President, Cochran-Bleckley Chamber of Commerce; Hannah Mullins, Executive Director, Candler County Industrial Authority; Michele Johnson, President/Executive Director, Greater Vidalia Chamber/Toombs County Development Authority; John Koon, Board Chair, Greater Vidalia Chamber, Debbie Evans, Vice-President, Greater Vidalia Chamber; Ann Owens, Director of Community Development, Greater Vidalia Chamber & Toombs County Development Authority; Ken Warnock, CEO, Swainsboro- Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce and Joint Development Authority; Paula McCain, President, CEO, Eastman Dodge County Chamber of Commerce; Candee Harris, Economic Development Coordinator, Wayne County Industrial Development Authority; Deena Bennett, Executive Director, Wayne County Chamber of Commerce; and Dell Keith, Executive Director, Wayne County Industrial Development Authority.
If you have questions about the campaign or would like to offer your assistance, please contact the Greater Vidalia Chamber at 912.537.4466. If you would like to learn more about TIA, in general, or past/future local projects, specifically, please visit http://www.ga-tia.com.