Cobb BOC Approves Mobility SPLOST for November 2024 Referendum

On Tuesday, June 11th, 2024, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a Mobility SPLOST referendum for the November 2024 ballot. Chairwoman Cupid, Commissioner Sheffield, and Commissioner Richardson voted yes, while Commissioner Birrell and Commissioner Gambrill voted against. The agenda item’s language was as follows: “To adopt a resolution imposing a Cobb County one percent Mobility Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax specifying the specific transit projects to be funded by the proceeds of such tax, and requesting the Election Superintendent to call an election of the voters of Cobb County to approve the imposition of such sales and use tax.”

Click here to watch a video recording of the BOC Work Session. The MSPLOST discussion begins at 2:12:50 into the video.

The Council for Quality Growth has been covering this MSPLOST process since draft plans became available in 2023. To view a synopsis, resources, and the timeline, see the below webpage.

Click Here for our Cobb MSPLOST homepage

Highlights from the BOC Meeting

Voting against the MSPLOST referendum, District 3’s Commissioner Birrell expressed concerns over the tax’s 30-year length: “I did vote for the 2016 and 2022 SPLOSTs to go to referendum. It’s the voters decision… However, those were for six years of projects. The MSPLOST is too long of a period… and I can’t support it.” Also voting against the MSPLOST,  District 1’s Commissioner Gambrill expressed concerns over the cost/benefit of the tax. She said that “not all areas of Cobb are equally being served yet everyone in our county contributes to congestion.” As expressed in previous BOC meetings, and today referencing the lack of ridership from visiting Braves fans, Commissioner Gambrill does not believe enough people use transit to justify the MSPLOST.

An important question worth clarification was brought about by Commissioner Birrell and re-visited by Commissioner Gambrill. They asked if the project list could be changed, and why a city’s allocation dollars are less than the projects on that city’s list of projects. Cobb DOT Director Drew Raessler explained that no, the list cannot be changed after referendum, and that the project lists “provide cities the flexibility of choosing which projects to select.” In other words, the cities are presented with a large menu and can choose which projects their constituents prefer. He clarified that this fact will be made clear to cities in the education process. Chairwoman Cupid added that “these projects are a possible list based on what the City and County choose to move forward with… the cities have autonomy in working with their residents to decide.”

Voting for the MSPLOST referendum, District 4’s Commissioner Sheffield requested clarification on the 30-year commitment. Raessler explained that the normal SPLOST’s 4-6 year timeframe is appropriate for most projects, but that transit projects require a much longer time frame and a sustainable funding source for operational costs.  “Larger projects,” he said, “are eligible for the federal CIG program through the FTA… and for funding, the FTA requires that the County demonstrate how that project would be funded for the long-term.” He explained how the delivery cadence, detailed in their website, would build out most of the system in the first 10 years, and the remainder of the program is about maintaining it in a state of good repair. District 2’s Commissioner Richardson expressed appreciation for the Cobb DOT staff and said, “I will never stand in the way of voters deciding on this.” Chairwoman Cupid provided the concluding remarks: “What it comes down to is do we perceive the future, this opportunity, to be worth it. I perceive that we can do something that is transformational for this county… this project could be a regional draw, but it also enhances our ability to serve our own citizens. Let’s give our citizens the opportunity to decide.”

The next step in the process will require the commissioners to work with the Cobb Elections Committee for the November 2024 referendum.

As shown in the Resolution below, the ballot langauge is as follows:

“Shall a special 1 percent sales and use tax be imposed in the
special district consisting of Cobb County for a period
of time not to exceed thirty years and for the raising of funds
for transit and transit supportive projects? These projects
will be as defined in O.C.G.A. § 48-8-269.40, and will be
inclusive of the approved project list within the AtlantaRegion Transit Link Authority Regional Transit Plan
If imposition of the tax is approved by the voters, such vote
shall constitute approval of the issuance of general
obligation debt of Cobb County in the principal amount not
to exceed $950,000,000 for the above purpose.”

click here for full resolution