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Informational effort a must for road tax
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Forsyth County News


It’s still a long way off, but there is the possibility local voters will have an opportunity to decide in August 2012 whether they want to impose a regional sales tax as a means of financing transportation projects.

Before that can happen, an awful lot is going to have to be done to educate the people of Georgia about the concept.

Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt is on the executive committee for a 26-member regional group that ultimately will decide whether the issue is voted on locally, and if so what projects would be financed by the taxes if approved.

The concept marks a dramatic change in how Georgia plans and finances transportation projects. It is a complex idea that demands a lengthy period of explanation and discussion if it is to win public approval.

At the core of the proposal is the fact that the state gasoline gas, currently the funding mechanism for transportation projects, is not generating the money necessary to meet all of Georgia’s road needs. Coupled with that is the fact that transportation needs are different in various regions of the state.

After years of debate and discussion, the state’s General Assembly put together a mechanism that would let regions of the state identify project priorities and then finance them with tax collections specifically from that region.

That’s the plan in simple terms, but there are a number of complexities at play. Elected officials from various city and county governments have to agree on projects for the region before there can be a vote. If no vote is held, or if a vote is held and the tax is not approved, local governments have to pony up more money to match state funding than they would if the tax is passed.

Simply put, it’s complicated.

Those who believe in the funding mechanism for roads will have to embark on a massive educational campaign over the next 18 months to explain to local residents why it would make sense for them to tax themselves on a regional basis for
transportation needs.

Approaching road projects regionally makes sense. Roads that wind their way through Forsyth County don’t stop at the county line, but continue on into other counties. Transporation projects that fund construction and repairs on a county-by-county basis often fail to solve major problems.

As big as the task will be to get elected officials from multiple governments to agree on project lists, the bigger challenge will be to make residents understand why they need to increase their local taxes if they want to solve transportation problems.

For this complex tax to win approval, voters will have to be convinced of a potential benefit. Smoke and mirrors won’t do it.