Henry County considering penny sales tax increase to ease gridlock

A November 2019 areial photograph shows the gridlock that is common at the Ga. 155 intersection with Interstate 75 in south Henry County. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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A November 2019 areial photograph shows the gridlock that is common at the Ga. 155 intersection with Interstate 75 in south Henry County. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The sales tax in Henry County could go up a penny next year if a plan to bring a TSPLOST referendum makes it to the Nov. 3 ballot.

Henry County leaders will meet later this month with officials in Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton, and Locust Grove to begin discussions on whether to seek voter approval to hike the sales tax from 7% to 8% over the next five years. They hope to raise $204 million to address the south metro Atlanta community’s increasing traffic woes.

If approved, the county will join the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, which agreed to raise close to $1 billion in TSPLOST funding in 2016.

“The TSPLOST referendum, if approved by voters, gives our citizens and visitors an opportunity to help move much needed mobility projects that are years away from construction, to earlier time frames,” Henry County Commission Chairwoman June Wood said. “With our significant population and industry growth, Henry County must continue to catch up and get ahead of our mobility option.”

Henry, the metro area’s second fastest-growing county, has struggled to match its infrastructure needs with booming subdivision development and the dozens of warehouses leaders have attracted to build in the community. Much of the county still relies on the two-lane roads that carried traffic back in 1980 when Henry’s population was around 36,200 residents, not the 235,000 who call the area home today.

The County Commission, which is driving the proposal, hopes to have it ready for residents to vote on during this fall’s presidential election. Commissioners are drawing up wish lists of road, bridge, sidewalk and bike path development that could be funded with the proceeds.

Because of state rules on TSPLOSTs, the county would require approval from each of its four cities to get the full 1% increase in the sales tax, Henry’s Planning and Economic Development Director Kirk Toussaint said. Without that support, the maximum the county could collect would be 0.75% of a penny.

Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford said chairwoman Wood and the mayor are expected to meet on June 30. He said the Stockbridge City Council will talk about the matter during a work session Tuesday.

“It’s something that is needed,” Ford said of raising funds for transportation. “We need to prepare for the future with infrastructure that matches the growth of the community.”