The special election that Gwinnett County commissioners called for March 2019 to hold a referendum on whether the county should join MARTA now has price tag — and it’s a quarter of a million dollars higher than previously thought.

County spokeswoman Heather Sawyer said $768,937 was set aside in the county’s $1.8 billion proposed 2019 budget, which was unveiled Tuesday, for the referendum. It had previously been estimated that the election would cost about $500,000, and that figure had been floated around for months.

County commissioners caught a lot of flack from transit supporters in August when they scheduled the referendum for a special election in March instead of putting it on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. There had been indications prior to that decision that the commission would put it on the general election ballot.

One of those indications was the notice for the special called commission meeting where the vote to call the referendum occurred. The notice had said the commission would be voting on putting on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The commissioners instead shocked residents by calling for a March 19, 2019 special election for the referendum.

If voters approve the referendum, MARTA could take over Gwinnett County Transit’s operations next summer as it begins absorbing the county’s existing transit system.

MARTA would also be required under the terms of its contract with Gwinnett to implement the county’s Connect Gwinnett Transit Development Plan, which calls for a major expansion of multi-modal transit throughout the county.

The Gwinnett County elections board formally voted to call the special election for the referendum earlier this month.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta. I eventually wandered away from home and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where I first tried my hand at majoring in film for a couple of years. And then political sc