Penny increase going into effect starting Thursday

By Billy Corriher

When the new year begins, residents of Clayton County will see a one penny increase in their purchases and county officials said plans are in full swing to spend the additional money.

The county's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which was approved by voters last fall, will go into effect on Thursday, meaning anything purchased in the county will carry a tax of seven cents on the dollar, an increase from the current six cents.

Barbara Butler, assistant manager of Circle K on Highway 138 in Jonesboro, said her store is preparing for the increase, but she doesn't think her customers will notice the increase.

"We never had a problem (with sales tax increases) before," she said. "Most people don't even pay attention to it."

The county is banking on the SPLOST to generate approximately $240 million in new revenue before it expires in five years.

Wade Starr, assistant to the chairman of the county commissioners, said the county could raise the $240 million before the tax expires. With the completion of the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2006, Starr said revenue from the SPLOST could exceed expectations.

"We expect a significant amount of money will be from people outside of Clayton County," he said.

But if the local economy does not improve and SPLOST revenue does not meet the $240 million mark in five years, the county would have to eliminate some of the projects.

SPLOST revenue will fund a five- to six-year Road Infrastructure Improvement Program. Starr said the county rated all of its roads in terms of need of improvement and will work on the worst roads first.

"We want to get as many of those done as possible," Starr said. "We believe there will be sufficient funds to do, for sure, the recreation projects."

In addition to road improvements, the funds will be used for safety projects, a new Senior Center at the Beach, a new recreation center in North Clayton, and will fund the expansion of the county's aquatic center.

Starr said the county hopes to break ground on the recreation projects in early spring of 2004, and he said the engineering phase of expanding Lee Street and Flint River Road have already begun.