Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information from GDOT and corrects Todd Long’s title.
By David Pendered
The financial consequences of last year’s transportation sales tax referendum are starting to appear in the coffers of local governments throughout Georgia.
Counties that passed the sales tax have to match 10 percent to receive money from the state to maintain roads. Counties that rejected the tax – including metro Atlanta and most of Georgia – have to match 30 percent of the grant to receive any allocations from this pot of money.
The first round of checks to be issued for Fiscal Year 2014, which began July 1, has been released. In addition, this is the second year the state is using a new method to provide city and county governments with local assistance grants for transportation improvements. The state Legislature created the program in 2009 in an attempt to streamline the state’s previous method of providing money to local governments to repair and maintain roads.
Voters in 46 counties passed the transportation sales tax. Voters in 113 counties rejected the tax.
The five counties that comprise the core of metro Atlanta have received a total of $4.3 million through the state’s new program of Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants.
The largest allocation, so far, was to Cobb County, which received $3.9 million. The smallest allocation was to Clayton County, which received zero dollars. Local governments have through December to submit their applications to share in a total of $122 million in local assistance grants, according to Todd Long, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
To receive the money under the new formula, the local governments, to date, have had to provide a total of an additional $860,000, compared to prior years.
The old formula would have required a local match of $430,000. The new formula requires a match of $1.29 million.
The Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants program
is the result of the state Legislature’s decision in 2009 to combine two previous programs – Local Assistance Road Program and State Aid.
The funding formula for the new program is controlled by GDOT’s director of planning, a position created by the Legislature in 2009 and appointed by the governor.
This year’s program provides $122 million, Long said. According to a GDOT report, the program’s criteria provide that:
- Grants are based on formula;
- An expansive list of eligible expenses can count toward the match;
- The money is provided at the start of the state’s fiscal year, which begins July 1;
- Local jurisdictions control the expenditures;
- Counties are required to certify the work each year.
In the past, the governor and Legislature provided a total of $40 million to $80 million a year for the two programs, according to a GDOT report. The money was distributed among the state’s 159 counties and more than 500 cities and towns.
The old LARP required no local funding. The money could be used only to pay for resurfacing existing roads. Local governments were required to pay to prepare roads for resurfacing.