TPLOST vote looking likely on this November's ballot


Although nothing's set in stone, the County Commission currently is gearing up for another TPLOST referendum later this year on the November general election ballot.

"Most likely," County Manager Carlos Tobar told Baldwin2k News on Wednesday. "We've heard the public's many concerns, and we are looking to address them."

Tobar added that a new TSPOST would resurface a number of roads, while also addressing other issues such as bridge replacements, drainage issues and culvert replacements.

County Commissioner Henry Craig, meanwhile, frequently will tell anyone who will listen that without a new TSPLOST, roads in Baldwin County will only be re-paved "on average once every 60 years."

If approved this November, the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax would increase the total sales tax in Milledgeville/Baldwin County from seven cents to eight cents. A new TPLOST would bring in roughly $5 million per year between 2023 to 2027, with the revenue split between the county government and the city government. The exact split for this year hasn't been hammered out yet. However, during the 2018 TSPOST referendum, the split was set at 65 percent for the county government and 35 percent for the city. 

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2018 was the last time that local voters had a go-around with TPLOST. In May of that year, a "regional TSPOST" was on the ballot. Baldwin County voters actually voted in favor of the regional TSPLOST, 2,715 to 2,139. The referendum failed across the region and wasn't as popular in other nearby counties, though, and the regional TSPLOST was not enacted.

Then, the County Commission and City Council came right back in November 2018 with a local TSPLOST referendum. To many's surprise, that referendum was rejected by a 53 percent to 47 percent difference. It marked the first time that a local SPLOST referendum of any sort had ever been shot down in Milledgeville/Baldwin County, dating all the way back to 1990. 

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.

So, what changed between 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.

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