LAWRENCEVILLE -- Officials will begin discussions this week about the continuation of a tax that has generated $2 billion over the decades for Gwinnett.
A commission briefing is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the potential 2014 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which could be on ballots in November.
"We still have a lot to talk about regarding the potential uses for an extension of our current SPLOST, but I can't imagine having any discussions without focusing on transportation improvements," Commissioner Lynette Howard said. Gwinnett still has significant needs for improving the mobility and safety of our roadways."
According to preliminary numbers recently released to commissioners, a three-year, one-percent sales tax program could generate between $453 million and $508 million, while a five-year program could generate between $781 million and $889 million. (Commissioners have said they plan to propose an odd year cycle for the program, so that it would align with a regular election.)
Due to state law, the use of the funds is limited, with stipulations that the money must go to capital projects and cannot be used to fund government operations like salaries.
In the past, the majority of the county's sales tax dollars have gone to road improvements, but money has also been divvied to build parks, libraries, police stations and fire stations. Those uses, though, later require the hiring of more staff to man them, which has become more problematic in the current economy.
"I believe the vast majority should be directed towards transportation infrastructure -- the high-capital, low maintenance facilities," Commissioner Tommy Hunter said. But the former water department staffer said he also hopes to dedicate about $15 million a year to the county's stormwater needs. If that is approved, he hopes to cut the stormwater utility fee on tax bills in half.
Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the final decision on the ballot measure will likely come in July, but next week's meeting will allow commissioners to hear input from staff and discuss their options.
On June 4, county leaders will meet with city representatives, who have already begun to formulate potential funding lists.
"I continue to believe that Gwinnett's greatest needs are in the transportation area," Nash said. "The vast majority of funds from a future SPLOST should be used to improve our roads, bridges, drainage and sidewalks."