The MARTA Board is taking extraordinary steps to reassure Clayton that its full penny sales tax, if approved, won’t go toward expanding transit services in other counties as some commissioners have feared. Included in MARTA’s contract offer is language that ensures unspent sales tax money collected in Clayton is kept in a separate escrow account, to be used only for the purposes of expanding “high-capacity passenger service” (i.e.: commuter or heavy rail) in Clayton County.
Earlier this year, MARTA Board members rejected a contract to provide bus service to Clayton County in exchange for a half-penny sales tax on the dollar increase. The Board members unanimously rejected the proposal saying it was unfair to existing jurisdictions that have been paying a one-cent sales tax for decades. Consequently, parameters of the proposal changed and Clayton County Commissioners recently voted to allow residents the opportunity to decide if they want to implement a one-cent sales tax. If the majority of Clayton residents vote in favor of this proposal, it would mark the first MARTA expansion beyond DeKalb and Fulton counties since the agency began forty-two years ago. If the measure is approved, MARTA will begin offering limited bus service beginning March 2015 and full bus service the following year. The expansion would serve the community well since Clayton County leads the metro region in unemployment and the proportion of households without a vehicle. The vote on November 4, 2014 is vital to helping residents who are currently unemployed and residents without reliable transportation. A vote in favor to levy the one-penny tax would grant a viable option for citizens of Clayton County to commute back and forth to work. The transit service not only could expand the job options of unemployed citizens but also increase the confidence level knowing they are moving from a nebulous outlook to a brighter future with transit and rail services coming very soon.