The DeKalb SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee set road repaving as their top priority for how a proposed sales tax should be spent during a meeting Wednesday, April 27, 2016. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

Citizens want DeKalb road repairs funded with sales tax

Money raised from a proposed DeKalb County sales tax should primarily go toward repaving hundreds of miles of bumpy, pothole-ridden roads, according to a list of proposed projects approved Wednesday by a citizen panel.

The citizens also said money should be dedicated to replacing run-down fire stations, building a county government center and constructing a police academy.

Their priorities will be considered by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners before they finalize infrastructure projects that would be funded by a proposed special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) that’s planned to be put before voters in the Nov. 8 election.

If approved, the one-cent-per-dollar additional sales tax would raise about $550 million for county and city governments over the next five years.

Residents on the panel said there’s a clear need to eliminate numerous potholes and dilapidated roads throughout the county. More than 417 miles of roads in DeKalb are in need of resurfacing.

“We realize the challenge to the community with roads,” said Markus Butts, a co-chairman of the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee. “There’s a lot of things on this list that the community will be able to see and feel immediately, like roads.”

The nine-person committee, appointed by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May and county commissioners, has been meeting since January to recommend proposed SPLOST capital projects.

Committee members tried to make suggestions that match the results of a recent Georgia State University survey, which found that most people said their top priorities were road resurfacing and public safety facilities, said co-chairman David Sjoquist.

“We heard from the citizens in a survey that roads and public safety were a big deal, so that’s where we put the money for the most part,” he said. “People will see that these are projects that benefit them.”

The sales tax is projected to generate about $378 million for DeKalb County’s government and $174 million that will be distributed to city governments.

Repaving the county’s worst roads would cost roughly $162 million, representing 43 percent of the county’s share of SPLOST funding. Smaller amounts would go toward public safety, transportation, facilities, parks and libraries.

Besides roads, the most expensive item on the list is $35 million to help build a DeKalb government center that would consolidate government functions at a new facility along Memorial Drive near the county jail. Several current offices need millions in repairs, and the county government wants to sell them.

The citizen group proposed dedicating $10 million for the public safety training academy facility, and $6 million would go toward a park in Ellenwood.

A separate SPLOST for county public schools is on the May 24 ballot. Unlike the county’s SPLOST process, the school system didn’t specify projects for voters to consider.

The citizen panel’s suggested project list, which includes more than 100 items, is scheduled to go before the DeKalb Commission in June.

Proposed SPLOST spending

Roads and drainage: $162 million

Transportation: $55.6 million

Fire: $46.9 million

Facilities: $44.3 million

Parks: $34.3 million

Police: $24.2 million

Libraries: $11.3 million

City infrastructure projects: $174 million

Total: $552.6 million

Note: Figures are estimates

Source: DeKalb County