Voters approve SPLOST extension

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's infrastructure needs will be addressed, after voters agreed to extend a penny sales tax for five years.

In a referendum Tuesday, voters agreed 141,703 to 110,612 to the extension - the fourth successful vote in a row.

"It will mean that Gwinnett County will be able to maintain its leadership position in the nation on things like parks, and also improve transportation for the county, which its citizens deserve," said Mike Levengood, a lawyer from Lilburn who headed a campaign for the extension of the special purpose local option sales tax.

The 56.16 to 43.84 percentage margin (with absentee ballots yet to be counted as of 1 a.m.) was not as great as the 2004 vote, when people supported the tax 156,080 to 83,449, or nearly by a 2 to 1 ratio.

"We had been cautiously optimistic, given the success of prior SPLOSTS," Levengood said, adding that citizen involvement and the government's follow-through on promises helped sell voters to extend the tax. "The challenge is in this economy, you just never know."

The vote, in unofficial results, gave the go-ahead to a five-year one-percent sales tax, which is expected to bring in $850 million.

More than half of that money will go to transportation projects in Gwinnett and its cities, which will share $132,749,600. In addition, $162 million will go toward parks, $19 million to libraries and $66,325 to public safety facilities.

According to allocations approved by the Board of Commissioners, $95 million will go toward an expansion to the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which was built in the 1980s with the county's first sales tax program.