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Fulton Elected Officials Hear Residents Don't Trust Them on Transportation Tax

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker, Commission Chairman John Eaves and Union City Mayor Ralph Moore answer funding questions.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The town hall moderator only gave out first names of callers.

Fulton County residents don't trust their elected officials when they say a transportation sales tax would end in 10 years. The extension of tolls on GA 400 that were due to end when bonds for the road's construction were paid off as one example, and the continuation of the MARTA one percent sales tax continuation as another.

"Why should we believe you people?" asked James, a Fulton resident, during a telephone town hall meeting held by the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable.

MARTA needs the sales tax extension through 2047 in Fulton and DeKalb counties to survive, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said. It's essential for the vitality of the two counties and their cities, he said.

Under the terms of the Transportation Investment Act, the sales tax is required to sunset after 10 years. The only way it could continue would be if residents in the region voted to approve another sales tax referendum, Eaves said.

Tom asked the officials in these economic times, why burden residents with another tax?

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said the tax won't begin–if approved by voters–until 2013, and he hopes the economy has picked up by then.

"Nearly 30 percent of the tax is expected to be paid by people from outside metro Atlanta," Bodker said, including by people from out of state.

The proceeds of the tax will be spent without the region on projects to get people moving around the region. Getting rid of the congestion will allow them to enjoy a higher quality of life, Bodker said.

Another Fulton resident asked with all the projects how much was going to be available to spend on maintenance of roads, repairing potholes, removing metal plates left in roads and resurfacing them.

Union City Mayor Ralph Moore said each local government will get 15 percent of the sales tax revenue collected in its boundaries "that they can use at their own discretion."

"A lot of the money out of the $7 billion will go into fixing the big issues that really choke our metro area," said Moore.

More money will be available to fix the potholes and other safety issues with the addition of the regional sales tax funds to cover the big issues, he said.

Susan asked, "If this is truly a regional plan, why does the city of Atlanta get their own separate list. And why is there no voting member on the roundtable from North Fulton?"

Moore said the city of Atlanta is included in the region. Each city and county submitted its own list. The unconstrained list of projects that resulted will be pared down by the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable. North Fulton didn't have its own representative because the legislature drafted the legislation to include County Commission chairs, a single mayor from each county, plus Atlanta's mayor.

Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Paine was one of several callers who wanted to know how the large list of projects under consideration will be cut down to what the sales tax can fund.

Moore said citizen input is being received by the five-member executive committee, which will pare down the complete list of proposed projects to a list that will match the projected revenue for the 10-year life of the sales tax, if approved.

Eaves said public meetings will be held throughout Fulton County to get input from local residents.

Residents in the 10-county region can take a survey online about their interests.

MB June 23, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Interesting that a Clayton County transit system is apparently on the list of possible projects, but there was no mention of broader metro support of MARTA from this tax. Think they're going to have to come up with something to justify Fulton and DeKalb taking on two cents per dollar for transportation. (As a Johns Creek resident, it galls me to go to the MARTA stations and see all the Cobb, Gwinnett, etc cars - who likely have better access to MARTA than I do - and we pay the same fare!)

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