Commissioners start talks on sales tax for road improvements

By Linton Johnson

The Elbert County Board of Commissioners held a work session Thursday and began discussions on whether to put a special purpose local option sales tax for transportation projects, known as a T-SPLOST, before the voters in the form of a referendum as early as next year.
County Administrator Bob Thomas told the commissioners the extra penny sales tax would bring in almost $1.9 million per year, and after sharing the revenue with the cities of Elberton and Bowman, the county would have $1.2 million to spend on the 400 miles of county-maintained paved roads.
”If this is something the commissioners want to move forward with, we really need to get to work on it,” Thomas said. “I’m not sure that we need to move so quick that we don’t give public input to it. That’s going to be a key component, is providing public input to it.”
The T-SPLOST referendum would be held in March or November of next year and would require approval by a majority of voters in the county. A list of proposed projects would be presented to the voters, and the tax would be levied for a five-year period.
Commissioner Chris Alexander said he believes voters would support a special sales tax for needed road repairs. “I think if we do it right like it ought to be done the first five years, I think they would see how instrumental it was, I think they would want to continue.”
Commissioner Horace Harper agreed. “Nobody wants a tax increase, but if they know every penny of that is going toward their roads in this county, I think they’d go along with it.”
Further discussion of the T-SPLOST proposal for Elbert County will be on the agenda for the commissioners’ regular monthly meeting Monday afternoon. Thomas also informed the board Thursday that the county’s share of state Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant funding for 2019 amounts to $646,014, which the county is required to match with an additional 30 percent expenditure.
In other business Thursday, the commissioners heard from Keep Elbert County Beautiful representatives Joe Ray and Bill Hood on their desire for stricter and better-publicized enforcement of littering and illegal dumping violations. Ray said the problem won’t be solved unless citizens are aware of the penalties being imposed on violators.
“Until people know that Elbert County is serious about trash, dumps, anything in the world on the side of the road, then these people are going to continue to do it,” Ray said. “Now, do all these people have money? Absolutely not, but that’s not an excuse. I mean, until we get the mindset changed – it’s not going to happen tomorrow. But one of the biggest things we can do is actually to start issuing some fines, publishing them in the paper, letting people know that we’re serious about this.”
Among the suggestions discussed for consideration by the commissioners is a monthly report on violations, citations and fines to be published in the local news media.
Carla Patten of the local Humane Society appeared before the commissioners to discuss recommendations for animal control in the county. Thomas said beginning Dec. 1, animal control will be separated from the county’s code enforcement department and be handled by the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office with two people assigned to animal control full-time, with additional support from sheriff’s deputies.
The commissioners were also informed that Jim Purcell has resigned from the Elbert County Board of Assessors, and Thomas asked commissioners to consider nominations for Purcell’s successor.

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