This off-year election offered one major choice – a renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for three more years.
A small number of voters opted to make their votes count by going to the polls, and the majority, more than 58%, of those voting cast votes in favor of renewing the SPLOST. Their choice will surely make Gwinnett County even better.
There’s no noticeable change in the wallet. The new program starts when the current one ends on March 31, 2014. We’ll still pay six percent at the cash register, less than in many neighboring counties.
Almost 79 percent of the estimated $498 million in SPLOST proceeds will go to the County, while our 16 cities get about 21 percent. A citizens’ oversight committee will review all spending, which will also be audited annually with results and progress reports posted on city and county websites.
Transportation improvements are the primary focus. About $275 million is designated by category, including major roads, intersections, bridges, drainage, resurfacing, realignment, sidewalks, and pedestrian and school safety. A DOT citizens committee helped prioritize the categories before the election, and they are now setting individual project allocations within each category.
These capital improvements are aimed at one of our biggest challenges – getting around Gwinnett safely without sitting in traffic congestion. That’s why the Board of Commissioners set transportation for the lion’s share of the money.
There will be other tangible benefits, too. Almost $71 million for public safety includes new vehicles and equipment for fire, police and sheriff, a new medical examiner facility, and an emergency alert system that creates a surer mechanism for school personnel to summon emergency aid and that can tie public school cameras directly to the 911 Center.
Existing parks will get about $30 million for upgrades and renovations to reduce maintenance costs, and the Gwinnett Public Library system will get almost $12 million for relocations, notably in Duluth and Norcross.
Senior services’ facilities get about $6 million for renovations, expansions, and accessible vehicles and new vans for home-delivered meals. Four public meetings in October helped set those priorities.
Details on allocations and projects are posted online at www.gwinnettsplost.com. Please check that site regularly to stay informed on how your pennies are adding up to big changes in our quality of life in Gwinnett.
Because SPLOST funds must be used for capital improvements, we avoided projects with ongoing costly staffing or maintenance needs. That’s in line with our efforts to operate more efficiently by reducing costs.
By providing more than $2.6 billion in capital improvements without a penny of debt, SPLOST programs have played a significant role over the years in making Gwinnett a community with one of the best local road networks in the state, with superior public safety equipment and facilities, a park system named the best in the nation, and an award-winning library system.
My fellow commissioners and I intend to ensure these funds will be well-spent with greater transparency and accountability than ever before. These enduring improvements will make Gwinnett a better place to live, work, and play. To those who voted, thank you for your support and confidence.