After metro Atlanta voters this summer soundly rejected a 1-cent regional sales tax to fund transportation projects, state officials are looking for new ways to pay for high-priced road improvements in the area, the state transportation commissioner told a group of Perimeter business leaders.
“The metro area told us they didn’t trust government and they didn’t trust (the Georgia Department of Transportation),” Keith Golden told members of the Perimeter Business Alliance during a luncheon meeting Nov. 9. “We’re going to have to adapt to that.”
Golden said the state transportation agency is looking for partnerships with local groups, such as the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, to help fund projects in order to speed them up.
“The governor told me after the TIA [Transportation Improvement Act] passed to help those who help themselves,” Golden said. He noted that three regions of the state approved sales taxes for their project lists.
After Golden’s talk, PCID president and CEO Yvonne Williams announced the organization planned to contribute financially to improvements to the intersection of Ga. 400 and I-285. The PCID raises money by taxing businesses within its area, which covers portions of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven.
That $450 million I-285/Ga. 400 project led the regional list of improvements to be financed by the sales tax that was rejected by the voters in July.
Officials with the PCID have asked local governments to adopt resolutions to be sent to Gov. Nathan Deal asking that the project be given priority. A resolution adopted by the Sandy Springs City Council called the project “the top priority project of regional significance.”
Williams said PCID leaders hadn’t figured out yet how much they could contribute or how the money should be used, but they hope to be able to convince state officials to speed up the project. “We’ve got to figure out the numbers,” she said.
Golden said PCID contributions could mean planning of the work could move more quickly.
“Every little bit is going to help,” Golden said after the meeting.
During his address, Golden said his agency had reduced its budget, which he said will reach $2.1 billion in 2013.
He said the agency employed about 4,300 now, down from 5,900 in 2000.
Employing fewer people means that some will need new training for different jobs, he said.
“The process we’re doing is trying to ‘right size’ our organization,” he said. “My board asks [every meeting], ‘Do we have the right number?’ We probably do. I don’t have them all in the right place. I don’t have the right skill sets.”