Tax to fund more Jackson road projects

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Jackson’s one-percent infrastructure tax is paying dividends for residents.

The city recently announced construction was to get under way on a project to mill and overlay North State Street between Fortification Street and Woodrow Wilson Avenue.

The project is being funded with a $1.75 million federal FAST Act grant, with $1.3 million in one-percent funds being used as the local match.

The section is one of three along North State that are being paid for in part with one-percent monies. Another $6 million in infrastructure tax dollars are being used as a match on the TIGER Grant project, which includes rebuilding a section of North State from Hartfield Street to Sheppard Road.

The projects are part of a resume that city officials hope to use in getting the one-percent assessment extended indefinitely.

The tax was implemented in 2014 and places a one-percent assessment on most retail transactions in the capital city.

Since it went into effect, it has generated more than $82 million. Funds are collected by the Department of Revenue and placed in escrow, for use by the city specifically on infrastructure needs, such as road repaving, bridge repairs and the like.

To date, Jackson has allocated around $93.7 million.

Obligations include $13.8 million that was part of the first-year capital improvement plan, passed in 2015, $4 million for pothole repairs in March 2016, and $6 million for the North State Street and West County Line Road TIGER projects, which was allocated in 2017.

One-percent funds have also gone to street repaving contracts ($34.5 million), emergency water and sewer repairs $14 million), and consent decree program management $5.4 million).

Of the $14 million given for water and sewer repairs, $6.985 million was to reimburse the city for emergency repairs made between September 2016 and March 2018, while $7 million was a loan the city must pay back.

Funds are governed by a 10-member oversight commission. Under state statute, the commission is responsible for drawing up a master plan and ensuring that funds are spent in accordance with it.

City leaders are asking the legislature to amend state law to remove the tax’s sunset provisions. If left in place, the tax will expire in 2034.

With billions of dollars in infrastructure needs, Jackson leaders would like to use the tax dollars as leverage for bonds.

Those bonds, in turn, would allow the city to do more work up front, and pay for it over time.

However, the Lumumba administration can’t borrow as much as it would like, because the tax’s expiration date.

“The problem with leveraging funds now is that the timeframe limits the amount we can borrow to address immediate needs,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.

At the mayor’s urging, the council recently passed a resolution asking the legislature to extend the tax indefinitely.

The council approved the resolution unanimously.

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