Transportation Sales and Use Tax: What does that mean in real life?

Published 2:44 pm Monday, April 25, 2022

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Sumter County voters will be going to the polls once again in May. Your vote will determine who wins the primary on two county commissioner seats and on judges representing you on local, regional and state levels. Depending on the party ballot you choose to vote, you will be asked several “advisory” questions. Democrats choose the questions on a democratic ballot and republicans do likewise on a republican ballot. Non-partisan ballots have no advisory questions. These questions help the party take a “survey” of what the voter considers a priority. The way you answer the advisory questions is in no way binding.  Your answers on the advisory questions do not determine who your elected officials are, nor are you determining legislation.

However, there is a “special election” vote which will be tallied, and action will be taken. Voters often remark the questions on ballots are not fully understood and they find the wording to be cumbersome and complicated. This puts a voter in the position of “guessing” what s/he is voting on, or in some cases, not vote on the item at all. However, these questions can directly impact your day-to-day life and deserve to be fully understood before you cast a vote.

Despite the party ballot you choose, you will be voting yes or no on this binding question: “Shall Sumter County’s transportation system and the transportation network in this region and the state be improved by providing for a 1 percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years?”

To find out exactly what this question means, the Americus Times-Recorder contacted Barry Blount, who served on Regional Transportation Roundtable Executive Committee of the River Valley Regional Commission (RVRC).  According to the RVRC website,, “The River Valley Regional Commission (RVRC) serves 35 municipalities and county governments in the following 16 counties: Chattahoochee, Clay, Crisp, Dooly, Harris, Macon, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taylor, and Webster. We serve as the federally designated Economic Development District, the Area Agency on Aging and the Workforce Investment Board (for our 8 eastern counties) providing a number of programs and services to the 16-county region. The mission of the RVRC is to create, promote and foster the orderly growth and economic prosperity for our region.

Barry gave a little history on the tax. In 2010 the citizens living within RVRC voted to approve a 1% sales tax for ten years. This tax was implemented in 2012. Ten years later, the issue is back on the ballot. Should the tax be approved, you will see no changes to what has been taking place for the past ten years. In essence, for nearly every dollar you spend in the region, 1%, or one penny, will be collected to be used towards transportation needs. Fuels are not eligible for the tax. Often called the “penny tax” these pennies fund transportation projects which encourage growth in our region. By example, for the past ten years, if you bought a candy bar priced at $1, you paid an additional one penny in transportation tax. That penny was then invested into our transportation infrastructure and needs. If the tax passes again for another ten years, that same candy bar which cost you $1.01 in 2012, will still cost you $1.01. If it fails, the candy bar will go back to costing $1. The last vote, by collecting pennies one at a time, allowed Crisp County to build the new bridge crossing Lake Blackshear and 4-lane HW280 going into Cordele. In addition to the large project, local governments also received monies to address transportation needs. Some examples of these funds at work locally include the roundabouts on HW 27, HW 49 and improvements made to District Line Road.

Upon passing, Highway 280 will have four lanes from the bridge at Lake Blackshear all the way into Americus. According to Barry, the project is estimated to cost about 173 million dollars. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will pay about $121 million of that cost. If approved, the tax will pay about $52 million of the cost. If the tax vote fails, the dollars provided by GDOT will go to another project in the state. Barry explains his motivation for designating the HW280 project, “Enhanced transportation for this region will improve and further enhance economic development and job growth for Americus, Sumter County and the entire region.” Barry advocated for Sumter County to be directly impacted by tax dollars being generated in 16 counties. The other 15 counties agreed, by widening the Sumter County side of HW 280 into Americus, industry as well as individuals will have an easily accessible route going east to west. This compliments having the same going north to south by way of I-75 and HW 19, making our region an attractive hub for business. Efficient access to Sumter County increases the potential businesses will locate here, as efficient transportation routing of trucks and freight is beneficial to business and a powerful recruiting tool.

Upon failure, voters in 16 counties can expect to see their sales tax drop a penny. Also, upon failing, the $121 million which our county would get from GDOT for the HW280 project will also be dropped. If the tax passes, voters will continue to pay the same penny they have paid for the last 10 years, and we will receive $121 million of GDOT money to 4-lane HW280 making us more attractive to employers. Barry also reports, if the tax is once again passed, over the next ten years it could “potentially generate an additional $15 million for needs specific to transportation. This allows local governments to take on local transportation projects.” This means members of city councils and the county commissioners will have funding to address conditions of our roads and meet the transportation needs of Sumter County as a whole, as well as in the cities of Americus, Leslie, Andersonville and Desoto.

This “penny tax” is different from property taxes. Since it is on sales, anyone who buys a candy bar pays the same amount of money. The tax is not limited to only those who own property in Sumter County. Additionally, a sales tax means the burden is shared. If Mike from Idaho buys that $1 candy bar on his way to see Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm, the penny tax stays here. Mike is helping us grow. In this way, residents and visitors alike share the cost. Lastly, this question is on 16 different county’s ballots. If it passes, Mike from Idaho may buy his candy bar in Columbus, but his penny will help 4-lane HW280. According to Barry, it is estimated this tax will generate about $665 million over ten years.

All Sumter County citizens have a reason to vote in this election, no matter where you live in the county. If you wish to cast your vote early, you may do so at the Griffin Bell Golf and Conference Center at 1800 South Lee Street in Americus. Early voting begins Monday, May 2 and lasts until Friday, May 20, 2022. Saturday voting will take place on May 7 and May 14. You may vote between the times of 8am and 5pm. Election day will be Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at your regular voting precinct from 7am to 7pm. To determine where your polls are located or any other voting related matter, please visit If you have further questions regarding transportation taxes, please visit the RVRC website at Please know that by Georgia law, election workers and officials will not be able to answer any questions regarding ballot questions/decisions at the polling place.