By David Pendered

The first step was to create a $6.14 billion project list.

The next challenge facing the Atlanta Regional Roundtable is figuring out how to manage a road and transit construction program that would span 10 years and 10 counties. Presuming, of course, that voters approve next year a proposed 1 percent transportation sales tax.

“What has to be sorted out is how we have administration across the board,” Gwinnett County Chairman Charlotte Nash said Friday at a roundtable meeting. “We have to have an adequate oversight system in place.”

Gwinnett County Chairman Charlotte Nash
Gwinnett County Chairman Charlotte Nash

The cost of that oversight could be close to $250 million, or about the amount earmarked for the proposed MARTA route from Atlanta east along I-20. The management question has to be answered, at least in part, by Oct. 15 in order to devise the construction schedule that must be submitted to the state Legislature.

The $250 million figure is based on the rate 4 percent of the sales tax revenues cited by several members of the roundtable, including Chairman Bucky Johnson, as though it were the average going rate for administering a sales tax project.

Nash said several times that 4 percent is not a good rate to use to estimate the cost of overseeing the sales tax program. This project is so unusual that a rule-of-thumb formula simply isn’t applicable, she said.

“It would be more productive if you let us delay on that specific question and come back at the next meeting,” Nash said.

Nash was tapped by Johnson, the Norcross mayor, to oversee a committee that’s working on a host of technical issues involved in the managing the proposed construction program.

The issues the committee is considering include:

  • How to start construction projects that taxpayers can see before significant sales tax revenues are collected;
  • How to schedule construction when some projects likely will get more costly because of inflation;
  • How to prevent projects from getting bigger than planned;
  • How to decide who owns the assets built with a multi-county sales tax;
  • How to pay bills on time when the income is based solely on sales tax revenues, which tend to change from month to month.

Nash brings a unique set of skills to the task. Before winning elected office as Gwinnett chairman, Nash worked for 27 years in Gwinnett’s government – serving county administrator, director of financial services, budget director and grants manager.

“The very structure [of state law on the transportation sales tax] makes this very complicated,” Nash said.

“But we’re so thankful the Legislature passed this bill. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. We’re thankful to have the opportunity to grapple with these issues.”

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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