Without T-SPLOST, Atlanta explores plan B

One week after Metro Atlanta voters rejected a proposed 1% sales tax for transportation projects, state and local leaders are looking at other funding options. The city of Atlanta might ask for bonds to pay for sidewalk, road and bridge projects.

The consideration of bonds for transportation projects shows a breakdown of Tuesday’s vote gives city leaders confidence. Even though the plan known as T-SPLOST lost in all 10 Metro Atlanta counties and most regions statewide, most Atlanta voters cast ballots for the proposal. Inside city limits, T-SPLOST won by 16% of the vote.

“I was surprised that it won in Buckhead given the historic crabbiness about taxes that come from my constituents,” said city councilman Howard Shook. “Now, that it’s failed, I would expect the administration to start exploring the idea of a bond issue.”

While he didn’t definitively say the city will use bonds, Mayor Kasim Reed, in a statement, said Atlanta’s improved credit rating and $100 million savings account certainly make bonds a possibility.

“We have the capability to go to the capital markets for funding to meet many of our key infrastructure needs,” said Reed. “I look forward to working with the Atlanta City Council on identifying those projects in the weeks and months ahead.”

The campaign Reed and others waged to pass T-SPLOST included the phrase there is no plan B. However, Shook says city officials were discussing contingency plans before voters rejected the referendum.

“They’ve already begun setting the table by having several presentations given by the finance department, which suggests that the city does have capacity to go out and borrow those funds,” said Shook.

Tom Weyandt, Mayor Reed’s top transportation advisor, estimated T-SPLOST would have resulted in about $94 million over 10 years to pay for street safety, repaving, bridge reconstruction and other projects in the city of Atlanta.