Forsyth County has traffic problems. Roads are inadequate for the number of cars. These traffic woes impact our quality of life. Forsyth County is currently collecting monies on SPLOST 6 to fund road improvements. Now the Forsyth County Commissioners are planning to place a bond referendum on the November ballot. The real question is: Should we support the bond? Let’s look at the facts.
Bottom line up front: We are being asked to trust the government to fund and prioritize these projects at a time in history when trust in government is at an historic low.
This bond is proposing the use of $200 Million Dollars of Forsyth County Funds, $10.5M of State Funds and $123M of Federal Funds.
None of these projects have an estimated date to start or to be completed.
The first six projects on the list are for State Roads. If these projects are approved to be funded by this bond referendum then Forsyth County residents will still pay the gas taxes that are to be used for state road projects and pay an additional $71M to fund these projects.
Forsyth County has completed projects in the past with a letter from the state promising that they would pay 75% of the costs of the projects once the projects were completed. Even with documentation that they would pay, the county never received the money. There is no written agreement with the state that it would pay the $10.5M that is shown on the project list.
The Federal Government has halted road projects stating that there is no money to fund them. However, this list reflects that the Federal Government will pay $123M.
All bonds mean that the government is accepting a debt but in reality the citizens of the municipality are accepting the debt. In a General Obligation Bond, the issuer (Forsyth County in this case) of the bond has unlimited authority to tax its citizens in order to pay the bond holders. That means that if the economy has another downturn or revenues do not cover all the costs then the government will have to increase taxes.
The project list is presented to the public as an all or nothing proposition. The public does not have the option of prioritizing the projects or rejecting any they deem unnecessary.
During the planning of T-SPLOST government officials attended several sessions to help them decide what projects to include on the list and encouraged them to add projects that get a lot of public support to help ensure passage of the proposal. The project list for Forsyth County must not have passed muster since T-SPLOST failed 75% to 25% in 2012. This time, politicians added SR 400 to the list knowing that a vast majority of Forsyth County residents travel this thoroughfare in their daily commute. This project alone means that it is incredibly difficult to defeat this referendum. If this passes, the commissioners will then declare that all of the projects are equally valid the way they now declare that the citizens wanted Castleberry Road turned into a major thoroughfare since they voted to have it improved in a past SPLOST.
This is the wrong time to even consider going $200 Mil deeper in debt. Our commissioners are not willing to give us a transparent government, are unwilling to set up a mechanism that would obligate them to a timeline on any of these projects, but they want to obligate to an additional $200 Mil in debt. Until they prove themselves trustworthy of receiving a $200 M blank check then they should not get any more bond referendums passed.
The project list:
1. SR400 widening from McFarland to SR20 - $56M ($5M State funds, $51M FC funds)) This would widen to 6 lanes total.
2. SR400 widening from SR20 to SR369 - $52M ($50M Federal funds, $2M FC funds)
3. SR371 widening from SR9 to Kelly Mill Road - $42M ($39 Federal funds, $3M FC funds)
4. Continuous flow intersection at GA400 & SR369 - $10M (State funds)
5. SR369 widening from SR9 to SR306 - $15M (FC funds)
6. SR400/McGinnis Ferry Interchange - $44M ($34M Federal funds, $10M FC funds)
7. Ronald Reagan Extension from Majors to Shiloh - $24.68M (FC funds)
8. Ronald Reagan Extension from Shiloh to McFarland - $18.75M (FC funds)
9. McGinnis Ferry widening from Sargent to Union Hill - $18M (FC funds)
10. Old Atlanta Road widening from St. Marlo to Old Atlanta Club - 9.5M (FC Funds)
11. Old Atlanta Road widening from Old Atlanta Club to James Burgess - $14M (FC funds)
12. Pilgrim Mill Road widening from City limits to Freedom Parkway - $9.55M (FC funds)
13. Union Hill Road and bridge widening from GA400 to McFarland - $12.2M (FC funds)
14. Traffic Safety Improvements - $12.32M (FC funds for intersections, signals, culverts, striping, signs,
guardrails, sidewalks, etc)