DeKalb Commission approves sales tax project list

4:51 p.m Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 Local
The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a list of projects that would be funded by a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) over the next six years. From left: Commissioners Mereda Davis Johnson, Kathie Gannon, Jeff Rader, Larry Johnson, Nancy Jester, Steve Bradshaw and Greg Adams. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

A proposed sales tax increase in DeKalb County would primarily fund the repaving of cracked and pothole-filled roads, along with building new fire stations, buying police cars and renovating parks, according to a project list approved Tuesday.

The projects would be funded by a sales tax increase, from 7 percent to 8 percent, if voters support it during a Nov. 7 referendum. The special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) would raise about $100 million a year for infrastructure over the next six years.

The project list, approved by a 5-2 vote Tuesday, would cost $388 million that would be raised from sales taxes in unincorporated DeKalb. Another $249 million would go to city governments, which are voting on their own infrastructure project lists this month.

Road repairs are the county’s highest priority for the SPLOST. The project list sets aside $151 million for resurfacing, enough money to repave more than 318 miles of the county’s most neglected streets. That amount represents 39 percent of the unincorporated area’s funds.

“What I heard more often than anything else when I was campaigning last year was, fix the roads,” said Commissioner Steve Bradshaw. “This fixes the roads.”

Besides roads, the most expensive items on the project list are building replacement fire stations ($41 million), replacing the Bobby Burgess Building on Memorial Drive ($27 million) and funding other transportation projects like trails, bridges and sidewalks.

Those who voted against the project list, commissioners Jeff Rader and Nancy Jester, said they were concerned that most of the cost for countywide infrastructure — fire stations and courthouse renovations — would be borne by unincorporated residents.

Rader also said he wanted more money spent on roads. Under the proposed spending, many won’t be repaired if they are considered in “fair” condition, he said.

“There are going to be people disappointed when they pay an extra penny in sales tax, and their road … is bad,” he said.

Jester said she’s worried commissioners will raise property taxes because the project list doesn’t fully fund fire infrastructure. The DeKalb Fire Department had requested $56.8 million in SPLOST funding, but the project list appropriates about $16 million less.

Under a deal struck by county and city officials this month, city councils will decide whether they want to contribute additional funding to help improve firefighting services in their areas. For example, cities could contribute money for extra rapid response vehicles that could quickly handle medical emergencies.

At least three cities — Stonecrest, Stone Mountain and Tucker — have indicated they’ll contribute money for fire stations, said DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond.

Now that the project list is approved, the DeKalb Commission plans to vote next Tuesday to put the sales tax on the ballot.

To view the full proposed DeKalb SPLOST project list, visit http://on-ajc.com/2juFTNA.

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