Last week, the Board of Commissioners applied for $3.6 million in Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant Program dollars for Fiscal Year 2013 for road resurfacing projects.
Before the TSPLOST failed, Cobb was required to meet those state funds with a 10 percent match. The legislation that created the TSPLOST, however, requires the regions that turned down the transportation referendum to pay a 30 percent match.
Yet DiMassimo said the county was able to meet the match by counting expenses used in the county’s 2011 SPLOST referendum.
“Cobb puts tons into transportation already, so it’s not really much of an issue for them,” said Todd Long, deputy commissioner with the Georgia Department of Transportation. “They’re basically going to leverage their money for more of our LMIG money. They’ve got to show that plus 30 percent more they’re spending on transportation.”
DiMassimo said that before the legislation that authorized the TSPLOST vote, the required 10 percent match for those state dollars was also obtained by counting a local SPLOST or taken from the county’s general fund.
Long said he hasn’t been hearing many complaints about the increased match requirements as he works around the state.
While the TSPLOST failed in the 10-county metro Atlanta region, it passed in the Central Savannah, Heart of Georgia and River Valley regions. Those three regions will implement a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation improvements. And as a result of passing the TSPLOST, they will get to keep their match requirement for Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant Program dollars at 10 percent.
“The 46 counties that were part of the three regions that passed it are probably the loudest I’m hearing from,” Long said. “They want the 10 and 30 to stay in place. They went to bat, in their mind, to pass the sales tax. There ought to be some advantage for passing the sales tax, so they’re probably the loudest.”
Southeast Commissioner Bob Ott views the increased match amount as a penalty for those who voted down the TSPLOST regardless of the “creative financing” Cobb is using to account for its 30 percent.
“It’s wrong anytime that you penalize the voters for exercising their rights to say yes or no,” Ott said.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said he hopes something can be done about the law in the coming legislative session.
“I would hope that a reasonable change to the law can be approved this session,” Ehrhart said. “I do not see 70 percent of the state who did not pass TSPLOST accepting a 30 percent penalty if their elected delegations can change the law. They are certainly in the majority.”
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) said lawmakers are looking at revisions.
“While current law does require a 30 percent match for some road improvement projects, I and others are exploring ways to address this,” Hill said. “As newly appointed chairman of a transportation subcommittee, I intend to begin hearings soon to consider Plan B–type options and additional funding opportunities.”
The $3.6 million state grant Cobb has applied for is up about $400,000 from what it received last year, DiMassimo said.
Last Tuesday, commissioners approved a road resurfacing plan that will cost $7.3 million for the fiscal year, which will be paid for both with the state grant and local SPLOST dollars.