City Council looks to open conversation with County on TSPLOST referendum

May 14—THOMASVILLE- Thomasville City Council approved a resolution on Monday night that would support the Thomas County Board of Commissioners if they were to put a TSPLOST referendum on the March 2025 ballot.

TSPLOST, also known as Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that is used to fund capital outlay projects that are targeted for transportation purposes only.

Thomas County is one of two counties across southern Georgia not collecting a TSPLOST, with the other county being Baker. A TSPLOST can only be introduced by a county and must be approved by voters in a general election. Thomas County has not brought this funding mechanism to voters for a decision, but Thomasville City Council is hoping their resolution to support a TSPLOST will allow for an open conversation with county officials.

The city council has estimated from the current SPLOST that an additional $64 million could potentially be collected to support capital projects targeted at transportation infrastructure.

Distribution of TSPLOST funds would be based on population. Using the 2020 Census as a guide, it is estimated that Thomas County would receive 50% of the funding at $32,000,000, while Thomasville would receive 41.23% of the funding at $26,387,200 over six years. The remaining funds would be distributed to the other municipalities.

These funds would be used specifically for transportation projects at the local level, including acquisition of the rights of way, construction, resurfacing, relocation of utilities, improvement of surface-water drainage and patching, leveling, milling, widening, and other necessary repairs.

While the city understands no one wants an additional tax, a TSPLOST would take away a tax burden that is currently footed only by residents.

TSPLOST would be a sales tax that is collected and derived from everyone who purchases things in the county — both residents and visitors who visit parks, drive on local streets and roadways, and utilize the infrastructure in Thomasville.

"The reason I think this would be desirable is because it's a tax not strictly on property owners or the citizens of the community," said Assistant City Manager Sheryl Sealy. "If you drive downtown on any given Saturday, you'll see a lot of Florida tags down there. It will require them to help support the needs of our community."

Interim City Manager Chris White said a TSPLOST is something the City has been advocating for for quite some time, but they had to select the right time to begin discussions about it being on the ballot.

One of the major factors in picking the March 2025 ballot is the rising costs of roadway maintenance.

"Most of our roadway improvements right now are done through SPLOST," Sealy said. "But, when we look at our paving schedule, we are behind now because of the cost and the way things have changed."

Sealy explained that up until 2020, roadway improvements and paving were on schedule. However, COVID-19 caused a material shortage, putting multiple projects on pause. Once they restarted, the materials had gone up in price, some 30-40 percent.

"We had to take a look at our paving schedule and choose to do only six roads instead of 10 roads," she said. "We started getting further and further behind. We now can't pave roads on time and we are looking at decades and decades out before we can repave them."

White said roads should be paved every 25-30 years, but as of now, Thomasville is on a 50-60 year cycle.

"It's not sustainable," White said.

Not only does this cause problems with repaving, but using the SPLOST on road projects prevents the City from using that money toward its other capital projects, such as its parks masterplan.

"There has to be a way to provide these services without putting an undue burden on our citizens," Sealy concluded.

Through this resolution, Shealy and White hope to begin discussions with County Commissioners with a referendum formally being called for by January 2025.