Gwinnett anticipates November referendum on penny sales tax renewal

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Gwinnett County commissioners anticipate asking voters in a Nov. 8 referendum to renew a penny sales tax that would generate an anticipated $1.35 billion in revenue over six years for capital projects.

The current special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, expires in March. If approved, the new one would take effect April 1. The revenue would be divided between the government of Gwinnett County and its 16 cities roughly depending on population.

The county has identified many projects that a new SPLOST would fund, such as widening major roads, expanding parks, building a new police headquarters and fire stations, improving courtrooms, expanding the animal welfare center and enhancing senior centers, Financial Services Director Buffy Alexzulian said.

Voters have approved the countywide SPLOST nine times since 1985, said Nicole Love Hendrickson, chairwoman of the Gwinnett board of commissioners.

“It always amazes me what one cent, one penny, can do and has been able to provide for our county,” Hendrickson said.

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Sales tax is 6% in all Gwinnett County stores, including 1% for the county and cities’ SPLOST, 1% for the school district’s SPLOST and 4% for the state.

About 63% of voters in 2016 approved the current SPLOST. Without it, many capital projects would not have been possible, or they would have required the county to increase property taxes or go into debt, Alexzulian said. Visitors who make purchases in Gwinnett contribute to SPLOST revenue, she said.

The county commission held a special meeting Tuesday with representatives from cities to discuss potential SPLOST-funded projects. Many city officials said their allocations would improve roads and parks.

The county commission will consider an intergovernmental agreement with cities next month and anticipates issuing a call in August for the November referendum, Hendrickson said.

Peachtree Corners, the largest and newest city in Gwinnett, would build a pedestrian bridge to connect its trail system to busy Peachtree Parkway and another one across the Chattahoochee River from Johns Creek, said Mayor Mike Mason. The city would also buy green space and add a parking deck at The Forum shopping center, Mason said.

“This is Christmas in, I guess it’ll be, November,” he said.

Sugar Hill would turn 160 acres near the Chattahoochee into green space with walking trails, continue developing its greenway, build a downtown parking facility and improve its outdoor amphitheater, City Manager Paul Radford said.

Loganville hopes to bring running water and bathrooms to Destination Park and put some SPLOST money toward a library, Mayor Skip Baliles said. The city is mostly in Walton County, with about 30% of land area in Gwinnett, but Walton County has less than a tenth of Gwinnett’s population and the Walton SPLOST will only generate about $80 million, Baliles said.

“It reminds me of some family reunions that I used to go to,” he told Gwinnett commissioners. “You guys are the rich relatives.”