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David Pendered

DeKalb County voters may see a transportation sales tax proposal

By David Pendered

DeKalb County voters may get another shot at a transportation sales tax.

Burrell Ellis, Jr.

Burrell Ellis, Jr.

DeKalb intends to ask the General Assembly in 2013 to approve a local option sales tax for an array of transportation purposes including congestion relief, according to the budget proposal released Friday by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

The proposed regional sales tax that was on the July 31 ballot was rejected by a narrow margin in DeKalb – 2 percent, or 3,279 votes out of 126,221 ballots cast. The measure may have been approved in DeKalb if more MARTA service had been offered in south DeKalb.

There’s just one paragraph about the sales tax proposal in the budget recommendation Ellis provided to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners:

  • “In 2013, we will seek the Georgia Legislature’s approval for a local option sales tax for Transportation purposes, in order to address this growing backlog of street resurfacing, sidewalks, intersection safety and congestion relief and related projects.”

The statement is part of a longer section that addresses the county’s lack of money to address inadequate roads and sidewalks. The information is on the last page of the six-page letter by which Ellis transmitted his budget recommendation to DeKalb’s Board of Commissioners.

Specifically, the call for a referendum is included in the progress report on the county’s capital improvement program.

The section on capital improvements notes that the county has spent or obligated all of the 2006 bond projects – which targeted the areas of transportation, libraries and parks.

The last bit of money available from the transportation segment is being spent to upgrade the intersection of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff roads. Both roads are thoroughfares and the traffic congestion is common.

Ellis’ proposal goes on to say that the list of deferred transportation upgrades continues to grow.

To relieve the delays, Ellis proposes to allocate $5 million from the HOST program, including $3.5 million to match state funds from the Georgia Department of Transporation and $1.5 million to match other state and federal funds that are containted in the region’s Transportation Improvement Program.

HOST stands for Homestead Option Sales Tax. DeKalb was the first county in Georgia to implement HOST in order to shift the cost of providing some governmental services from property tax to sales tax revenues.

However, the HOST program doesn’t have enough money to leverage all available matching funds. For that reason, Ellis wrote, the county will seek authorization from the Legislature to put a local option transportation sales referendum on a future ballot.

Ellis told commissioners that his budget proposal is “lean, responsible and responsive to our priority concerns.”

Ellis commended commissioners Lee May, Jeff Rader and Stan Watson for their help in crafting the budget proposal.

DeKalb’s Board of Commissioners is slated to adopt a budget in early 2013.

The 2013 legislative session begins Jan. 14.


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 for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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