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Road money shifted after sales tax comes up short

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With funding down along with the economy, commissioners worked Tuesday to free up some money for road projects.

"Instead of putting money on the shelf, it's more to current needs," Transportation Director Kim Conroy said of the shifts, which often takes funds that were slated for studying projects that could not be completed in the near term to other projects.

Proceeds from the 2009 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax -- a 1-percent tax on goods set aside for government capital projects -- are down about 10 percent from the total anticipated when the tax was approved by voters in 2008. Last year, officials estimated about

For transportation, which receives the biggest portion, the downturn amounts to about $30 million less.

But by moving about $1.7 million in funds remaining from the 2005 sales tax program and reallocating nearly $7.5 million from the current program, leaders hope to fund some of the projects that had to be scrapped.

"There is nothing we in DOT can do in this SPLOST program to 'make up for' the money not collected," Conroy said. "Our aim is to use the money that is collected in the most efficient way possible. Hopefully, the projects affected by the shortfall and reallocation can be funded at some point by a future SPLOST program, federal/state funds or other sources.

The move fully allocates a Five-Forks Trickum widening project that would have had to wait for more funding, improvements to the road near a new school coming to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and allowing the county to widen Ga. 20 not far from where the state will soon widen another section.

The money also would build a Walther Boulevard bridge over Ga. Highway 316, fulfilling a promise to the state DOT currently working on an interchange nearby and helping the flow of traffic around Georgia Gwinnett College.

And nearly half-a-million would bolster strapped resurfacing funds.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said she sees the need for the shift.

"We appreciate the DOT re-evaluating these projects to get the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time," she said.

Conroy said a portion of the funds came from savings in projects but the majority was from cuts to money set aside for planning projects that could have been helpful in the future.

For example, money had been set aside to engineer bridges over Interstate 85 that would have connected West Lidell to Club Drive and Satellite Boulevard to Hillcrest Drive, but Conroy said the economy means the county would not likely receive federal funds for construction any time soon. Plus, the diverging-diamond interchange at Pleasant Hill may be able to improve traffic enough to put off the need for a few years.

"We've always had see money to have projects be 'shovel-ready,'" Conroy said. "But we felt it was more important (to move forward with construction on the others)."

Conroy said staffers followed the structure left by the members of a citizens project selection committee, making sure funds are still allocated for projects the group supports like school projects, major roads and sidewalks.

And community improvement district leaders were consulted with money for planning in those areas shifted to sidewalks there.

"We want to keep our promises," Conroy said.

Comments

R 1 year, 11 months ago

So much for ever-increasing revenues of sales taxes on people who don't live here...

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 11 months ago

This is the "new normal"...never again should the powers that be try to overstate the numbers when trying to ram pet projects down the taxpayers throats.

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jack 1 year, 11 months ago

This is a SPLOST- a tax the voters rammed down their own throats.

"We have met the enemy and he is us!"--Pogo

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Sandykin 1 year, 11 months ago

Those poor politicians. Their "income" is down 10%. Mine is down by a good bit more, but you don't see me still trying to spend money like I did in 2007. Every one of these blowhards needs to learn how to live within the means they have available - whether it meets the budget or not. They can say all they want that the people expect this and that and will complain if we don't get it, but we're all dealing with this economy and even tho we may gripe for a minute, doesn't mean we can't and/or won't accept the reality that certain projects just aren't gonna happen.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 11 months ago

So if "certain projects just aren't gonna happen", you would rather that money just sit in that project's account instead of being re-appropriated to build a project that CAN be built? Since you know the government ain't gonna give us our money back, I'd just as soon they move it from a project that isn't going to get built to one they can. I like the idea of moving money out of those bridge projects over I-85 to build the one at Walther Blvd on 316 and widen SR 20.

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Sandykin 1 year, 11 months ago

The problem I have with that logic is that if they saw the need for these projects in the first place, they'll see the need for them again. If the funds designated for that project are reassigned to other smaller, less costly projects, projects that potentially aren't as needed (just happen to be of a scale that they are able to fund), ultimately we'll end up paying for more projects than we would have if the funds had just stayed in place.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Granted - logic would seem to indicate it’s a prudent move on the surface…

BUT the ability to “re-appropriate” is an open door to creative accounting, SO maybe it’s time to bring back independent auditors.

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 11 months ago

File suit against the state to recover the 20% penalty mandated by the unconstitutional TSPLOST legislation. Gwinnett voters were put in an untenable position of voting a sales tax on themselves where Gwinnett would have only received 70 cents on the dollar in return. Gwinnett had no choice in which unconstitutional taxing region it would be grouped with prior to the vote and should not be cut off from its share of motor fuel tax monies as a result of this travesty of legislation.

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

I trust Kim to do what is best. SO far he has done a very good job with DOT.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

So... I may just be in agreement but just hoping he DOESN'T leave should be enough?

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