Atlanta-Area 2016 Transportation Tax Referenda, Explained | WABE 90.1 FM

Atlanta-Area 2016 Transportation Tax Referenda, Explained

Nov 1, 2016

Atlanta-area voters will have a chance to vote on three sales tax measures as part of the general election.  The ballot items would put money toward different types of transportation-related projects in different parts of the Atlanta area.

MARTA Referenda

Atlanta voters will have a chance to vote for or against a half-penny sales tax that would put money toward MARTA for the next 40 years. It would take effect in 2017. 

It will ask voters, “Shall an additional sales tax of one-half percent be collected in the City of Atlanta for the purpose of significantly expanding and enhancing MARTA transit service in Atlanta?"

MARTA has created a website to explain the ballot measure. The tax is supposed to produce about $2.5 billion for the agency to fund items on that list. 

The catch is the tax wouldn’t produce nearly enough money to fund everything on the wishlist of projects for which MARTA hopes to use the money. MARTA General Manager and CEO Keith Parker tells WABE’s Amy Kiley his agency will work with city leaders and the public to choose which items from the list will get funding. He also says Atlanta will apply for federal matching funds to further stretch tax dollars.

The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods has voted not to endorse the MARTA tax. The measure failed by just one vote, although the council has endorsed the Atlanta T-SPLOST.

Atlanta T-SPLOST

Voters who live in Atlanta will see a T-SPLOST referendum that asks, “Shall an additional 0.4 percent sales tax be collected in the City of Atlanta for 5 years for the purpose of transportation improvements and congestion reduction?”

As noted in the language, it will apply for a much shorter period than the 40-year MARTA tax. In fact, timeframe is part of why the MARTA referendum isn’t technically a T-SPLOST vote.

More information on projects that fall under this ballot item are on the city website. It highlights the following projects that would receive funding under the initiative:

  • "$66 million for the Atlanta BeltLine, which will allow the BeltLine to purchase all the remaining right of way to close the 22-mile loop;
  • $75 million for 15 complete streets projects;
  • $3 million for Phase 2 of the Atlanta Bike Share program;
  • $69 million for pedestrian improvements in sidewalks; and
  • $40 million for traffic signal optimization."

Fulton County T-SPLOST

People who live in Fulton County but not in the city of Atlanta won’t be able to vote on the MARTA and Atlanta T-SPLOST referenda, but they will have a separate ballot measure to consider. 

It asks, “Shall an additional 0.75 percent sales tax be collected in part of FULTON County outside of the City of Atlanta for Five years for the purpose of transportation improvements and congestion

That means the Fulton County T-SPLOST will cost voters a bit more than the MARTA and Atlanta referenda separately -- but less money than the other two combined.

The county has put together this interactive map, so voters can see what projects could get money if the sales tax passes.

DeKalb County T-SPLOST

DeKalb County voters will not see a SPLOST referendum on their ballots. The county commission voted unanimously not to put the measure before voters. They cited wording in state law and said the sales tax increase could have affected property taxes.

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