MARTA has reached an agreement for a contract extension that will clear the way for a 10-year sales tax extension. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

MARTA wins agreement for sales tax extension

It wasn’t easy, but MARTA has reached an agreement for a contract extension that would clear the way for a 10-year sales tax extension.

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved the so-called “15th-amendment” to the MARTA contract by a vote of 6 to 1. The other jurisdictions served by the transit agency - Atlanta and Clayton and Fulton counties - have already approved the agreement.

The move clears the way for an extension of the penny sales tax that supports MARTA operations for another decade, through 2057. The extension is crucial for MARTA’s plans to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars for new rail cars, station renovations and other capital projects.

Negotiations dragged on as some local officials sought to ensure their jurisdictions got their fair share of projects. Some were also concerned that potential newcomers – notably Gwinnett County – might not be required to pay their fair share of the cost of maintaining the existing transit system.

The latest contract amendment contains provisions designed to address such concerns.

The amendment includes specific dates for the completion of station renovations. It includes a provision that allows local governments a say in whether companies can receive tax breaks for developing property around MARTA stations. And it allows local jurisdictions to reopen contract negotiations if a new county joins MARTA.

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