Council approves criteria for spending TSPLOST discretionary funds

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 23, 2013 

Columbus Council approved a proposed plan Tuesday evening for determining how to spend approximately $2.5 million in discretionary funds expected to be collected annually from the Transportation Local Option Sales Tax that voters approved last year.

The resolution, which passed 8-1 with only Councilor Judy Thomas disapproving, outlines the broad areas to which the administration will apply the funding.

In addition to approving the process for selecting which projects to fund, councilors approved allocating $750,000 in SPLOST revenue that has already been collected to begin repair and renovation work bridges and culverts.

The other funds will be allocated to specific projects as those funds are collected.

The lone opponent to the resolution, Thomas, said she was voting against the proposal because she was under the impression that the administration would come to council in February of 2014 with a proposal for how to spend the entire amount that had been collected this year.

“The way the resolution is written I am going to vote no because of (the allocation). The rest of it I agree with,” Thomas said. “I feel like we ought not even allocate this $750,000 until we see what we have done for the year.”

City Finance Director Pam Hodge said the city has collected more than $1 million in TSPLOST discretionary funds so far and the collections are on pace to reach $2.5 million. The last few months of the year historically produce higher sales tax revenue than the early months, she said.

The $750,000 from the TSPLOST will be added to $750,000 already allocated in the city’s fiscal 2014 budget for bridge and culvert repair and renovation. The sites that will be addressed will be identified from a 2012 list of the bridges needing the most attention, compiled in 2012 by the Georgia Department of Transportation, according to Deputy City Manager David Arrington.

Under the administration’s proposal, the remaining $1.75 million would be spent as such:

$750,000 for road improvements.

This would include milling, resurfacing and “rehabilitation” of roads, based on need, paving of six miles of unpaved county roads and some safety and traffic management improvements at some intersections.

$500,000 for future operations and matching funds.

This money would be used to leverage matching funds from state and federal grants.

$300,000 for maintenance and safety improvements.

This would be used for maintaining and enhancing projects such as gateway projects and future and existing trails.

$200,000 for alternative transportation projects.

These funds would help expand the current network of walking, biking and jogging trails and to install ramps and other improvements to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

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