Where does each penny of your sales tax money go?
Your sales tax dollars will help pay for more than $260.3 million worth of roads, bridges and pedestrian pathways in Muscogee County by the year 2022.
As a regional commission is working to pitch a continuation of the tax, several projects have already been completed in Muscogee County:
Construction of a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle greenway along an abandoned railroad line from South Lumpkin Park to Old Cusseta Road. The project budget was $3.5 million.
Interchange reconstruction and modification of U.S. 27 and Custer Road at Fort Benning. The project budget was $18.7 million.
Completion of the River Walk project through extension of the River Walk behind Bibb and City Mills. The project budget was $10 million.
Other projects that will be paid for with the tax include:
Construction of passing lanes along Hwy. 219 from Luther Land Bridge to Happy Hollow Road. The approved budget is $17.69 million.
Improvements to Cusseta Road and Old Cusseta Road from Fort Benning Road to Staunton Drive. The approved budget is $58.2 million.
Construction of three express bus Park-N-Ride locations into Columbus/Muscogee County using existing sites. The approved budget is $22.4 million.
Improvements along Buena Vista Road, or the Columbus Spider Web Network, including a large bridge that will funnel traffic on Buena Vista Road over working railroad tracks. The approved budget is $42 million.
Construction of a Diverging Diamond Interchange at the Buena Vista Road bridge over Interstate 185. The approved budget is $47.67 million.
A project partially funded by the tax to widen U.S. 27 from Turnberry Lane in Muscogee County to Hwy. 315 in Harris County. The approved budget is $40.1 million.
Who Gets the Money and How Much
The 10-year tax, approved by voters in 2012, is budgeted to fund transportation improvements in 16 counties including Muscogee.
The other counties are Chattahoochee, Marion, Talbot, Harris, Stewart, Webster, Taylor, Schley, Macon, Sumter, Quitman, Clay, Randolph, Dooly and Crisp.
The original approved budget for all 23 of the region’s projects is $410,754,730.
So far $304,277,821 of that has been collected to date. In Muscogee County, $212 million has been collected since the tax was put in place.
Muscogee County has also received an additional $16.6 million in sales tax revenue since the start of collections. The county receives the funding on a monthly basis to be used on transportation projects in whatever way the local government sees fit.
The money can pay for “any new or existing transportation projects, such as airports, roads, bridges, mass transit, ports, terminals, bike lanes, pedestrian facilities, etc.” and can also be used as a local match for state or federal funding, according to a GDOT fact sheet.
A formula determines how much of the monthly funding the counties receive. Several of the counties do not have projects on the list, but all receive a portion of the revenue monthly to spend on transportation projects.
What’s Next with More Money
All of the counties recently passed resolutions in favor of a second 10-year sales tax except Muscogee County, which effectively began the process of bringing the proposal to voters.
A group of elected regional officials held its first meeting September 4. During the next few months, the group will work to select projects that would be funded by the tax should it be approved by a majority of voters.
During the meeting, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said that a conflict with the city’s proposed 1% sales tax could mean the Columbus Council actively campaigns against the transportation tax.
Despite Columbus Council’s decision not to endorse another transportation tax, the process to put it on the ballot will still continue, as the counties could be penalized for not bringing a project list before voters.
The current tax ends Dec. 31, 2022. A second tax could be seen on the ballot in 2020, 2021 or 2022.