Which "county roads" would be resurfaced under TSPLOST?
Although none of them are up for re-election this November, Baldwin County's five county commissioners currently are in campaign mode.
A single item will be on the ballot for Milledgeville/Baldwin County voters on Nov. 7, and that one item is TSPLOST, a relatively polarizing topic. If approved by voters, the new penny-on-the-dollar sales tax would generate an estimated $45 million over the course of five years for local road projects, with the exception of state highways, which are the responsibility of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The money would be divvied between the county commission and the Milledgeville City Council. The county government recently released its list of "county roads" that would benefit from TSPOST, hitting many of the high notes, like Lake Laurel Road and Log Cabin Road.
County Manager Carlos Tobar said that the goal is either to resurface every road on the list and in some cases repair the road base prior to resurfacing.
"You have to make sure that the base is solid before you resurface," he said.
Below is the list of county roads...
It's an ambitious list, but Tobar said that he's "pretty confident" that every road on the list can be completed within the five-year timeframe. Tobar added that the county also would utilize Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant (LMIG) money from the state, which is basically a 50-50 match from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Which roads will be fixed first? If TSPLOST passes, Tobar said that the county commissioners will prioritize the list. Tobar said that it likely would be some combination of the most traveled roads and the roads most in need of repair.
The Milledgeville City Council is expected to release its wishlist of roads and projects in the coming weeks.
The big challenge facing the City Council and Board of Commissioners is how to get the referendum passed by voters, which hasn't always been easy. The most recent local TSPLOST referendum, held back in November 2018, remains the only SPLOST vote in Baldwin County history to be rejected by voters, which dates all the way back to 1990. That referendum was rejected by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. The most "no" votes in November 2018 came from Milledgeville/Baldwin County's more rural precincts, despite the fact that the bulk of TSPLOST money was earmarked for county roads. The Coopers precinct was 59 percent against, the Scotsboro precinct was 58 percent against, while both Meriwether and East Baldwin were 56 percent against.
Interestingly, a regional TSPLOST referendum was held earlier in 2018, and Baldwin County voters actually voted in favor of the regional TSPLOST, 2,715 to 2,139. However, the regional TSPLOST referendum failed across the region and wasn't as popular in other nearby counties.
So, what changed between May 2018 and November 2018, when local voters flipped from "yes" to "no" on the TSPLOST issue? Well, many local residents were caught off guard upon receiving their property tax bills in September, the month prior. Included on each bill was a $32-per-parcel tax marked for "indigent care" and Navicent Health Baldwin County. The county commissioners received an earful, and the indigent care tax generally was not well received. The timing of the property tax bills (mailed out in September) could not have been much worse for TSPLOST proponents, and it could be argued that many property owners exacted their revenge at the polls that November.
If approved by voters later this year, the local sales tax would rise from 7 percent to 8 percent.