Cobb referendum on public transit to be delayed until 2024

image with a bus and train with the text Public Transit

Cobb County announced that the vote on the Mobility Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Mobility SPLOST or MSPLOST) which includes decisions on public transit options will be delayed until 2024.

The following post on the County website explained the decision:

After a series of meetings with various stakeholders, Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said she would delay asking the Board of Commissioners to vote on a Mobility SPLOST referendum this year.

“I can’t put this on the ballot myself,” Chairwoman Cupid said. “This is a team effort and these conversations convinced me we can get more support for a transit referendum after putting in more intentional effort and planning over the next few years.”

Cupid admits she was eager to put this before voters in 2022, because more federal matching funds were available, and “we’ve been putting this off for 50 years, and I didn’t want to be the Chair who pushed it off further.”

However, with DeKalb and Gwinnett counties looking at a referendum in 2024, Cupid thought more synergy could come from the counties working together for a more regional transit effort.

About the MSPLOST

Here is the way the Cobb DOT website describes the MSPLOST:

SPLOST (the referendum on the ballot in November 2020) has been a fixture in Cobb County for decades and provides funding to a variety of county agencies for projects, including public safety projects, parks, libraries, and information services/technology as well as transportation.

MSPLOST is very similar but provides dedicated funding for transit and possibly surface transportation projects. In the last few years, Georgia passed House Bill 930 (transit) and House Bill 170 (surface transportation), which gives the county the option to put this dedicated transit/transportation funding source to a vote. HB930 creates the opportunity for a funding source dedicated to transit and House Bill 170 creates the opportunity for a funding source dedicated to surface transportation.

The Cobb DOT describes the options available as follows:

Both House Bills allow for a great deal of flexibility regarding the amount and the duration that money is collected, providing a multitude of possibilities. Specifically, HB930 allows the county to implement up to 1 penny for up to 30 years for transit.  Likewise, HB170 allows the county to implement up to 1 penny for up to 5 years for surface transportation projects. So, the options range from ¼ for 1 year to 1 penny for the full duration allowed under each bill. To complicate things further, the county has the option to implement both House Bills with the MSPLOST or a single House Bill.

The primary questions facing the county and its residents at this point include:

  • Should the county include both House Bills (transit and surface transportation) in the MSPLOST referendum or go with a transit only option?
  • How much of the 1 penny should be included in the referendum?
  • How long should the penny sales tax be collected?