Penny sales tax renewal will be on November ballot in Gwinnett

Lawrenceville and Gwinnett agreed on joint 2017 SPLOST transportation projects. AJC File

Lawrenceville and Gwinnett agreed on joint 2017 SPLOST transportation projects. AJC File

In addition to choosing candidates in midterm elections, Gwinnett County voters Nov. 8 will be asked whether to renew a penny sales tax that funds county facilities, roads, parks and other projects.

If renewed, the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) is expected to generate $1.35 billion over six years. Based on population, three-quarters would go to the county government and the remainder would be distributed among the 16 cities partially or wholly in Gwinnett.

Voters have consistently renewed SPLOST since 1985. The current tax is set to expire in April.

“I’m excited about the next SPLOST referendum and all that it will potentially help us do in the future,” County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said last week at a meeting.

If the tax is renewed this year, the county and cities agreed to first set aside $12.5 million for courthouse renovations. After that, the county’s largest allocations will total about $736 million for roads, bridges and other transportation projects; nearly $140 million for public safety, including $86 million for a new police headquarters; and $108 million for recreational facilities and equipment.

Commissioners will appoint a 15-member citizens’ committee to recommend transportation projects the sales tax should fund. Committee meetings will be open to the public and include a comment period, Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said.

“Community input and citizen involvement are cornerstones of the project selection process,” Cooksey said.

The county’s recreation board will finish prioritizing parks projects next month for the potential SPLOST and send its recommendations to county commissioners for approval.

Cities plan to spend much of their allocations on road projects, according to an intergovernmental agreement with the county. Other high-dollar potential city projects include about $17.1 million for public safety facilities and equipment in Suwanee and $10 million for recreation projects in Snellville.

The current sales tax is estimated to collect $950 million by its March 31 end date. The taxes save the county financing costs compared to issuing bonds for capital projects, officials say.