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Regional tax topic at Rotary
Officials discuss transportation levy
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Forsyth County News

 

There is no backup plan.

If the 1-cent sales tax for transportation projects doesn’t pass, “there is not a Plan B for transportation,” Danny Lewis told Rotarians on July 27.

Lewis, executive director of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, and GMRC Chairman David Stovall spoke during a South Forsyth Rotary Club meeting on the transportation initiative and the commission.

“They gave an excellent presentation and really gave us a much broader overview of what the group does and the importance of our involvement and cooperation with other counties in the region to develop a comprehensive plan, not only for our county, but the region,” said Rotarian Marilyn Wedig.

Stovall talked about the commission’s involvement with the regional Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST. The penny tax could yield as much as $1 billion over its 10-year lifespan, he said.

All the money will remain in the commission’s 13 counties, which include Forsyth and Hall.

Projects to be completed using the tax money will be finalized by a 26-member T-SPLOST roundtable, with two members representing each county in the GMRC. Forsyth’s representatives are Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Forsyth County Commission Chairman Brian Tam.

Currently, a five-member executive committee, on which Gravitt also serves, is charged with trimming the overall project list to fit within the proposed $1 billion limit.

“Mayor Ford Gravitt has been very, very big in the leadership of the transportation roundtable. He’s on the executive committee, in fact,” Stovall said. “[He] and Commissioner Tam and others are very involved in that transportation bill and bringing it to fruition.”

Stovall said because of the population split, Hall and Forsyth counties represent about half the total vote to approve the tax.

The population of the two counties is also beneficial in the projects the roundtable will select to be on the ballot.

“Forsyth and Hall are the two most populous counties,” Lewis said. “Both of those counties have one county and one representative. The other counties have either three or four counties represented by one person, so that says what kind of attention this board puts into Forsyth and Hall counties.”

Lewis said the executive committee still has to cut about $500 million, “but we have a meeting next week and we think that’ll pretty much be taken care of.”

Rotarian Bart Dorough said the meeting was the first he’s heard of the transportation tax.

“I didn’t know about it at all, so it was interesting for us to learn and for me, personally, to learn about it,” he said. “It was great to keep us informed of what’s going on in the counties as far as the transportation projects.

“Obviously that’s going to have a lot of benefits to us in Forsyth.”

The roundtable will make its final decision on project funding by Oct. 15. Voters in 12 regions across the state will be asked in July 2012 if they want to approve the tax for their county’s region.

Lewis said the project is “the most important thing that we’ve worked on since I’ve been here as executive director.”