ATLANTA — In 2015, Atlanta voters agreed to a $250 million bond for infrastructure improvements.
About a year and a half later, voters approved a .4-cent sales tax for additional projects, providing more than $630 million to improve roads, bridges and other projects.
Where is the money, especially when costs have gone up? The bond referendum and Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) were supposed to fund the projects.
Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook dreads having to now prioritize the projects.
“Turns out a lot of the original estimates were much less than today’s cost of completing projects,” Shook said.
Shook said construction and labor costs have increased, leaving about 25 percent of the project underfunded, and there are questions on how some of the other projects were approved, including the Streetscape Project on Lynhurst Drive in southwest Atlanta.
Sources at City Hall said it was added to the approved list of projects after the referendum was passed.
The city auditor recently completed a report that says TSPLOST money that was supposed to go to road improvements was also used to purchase land near Piedmont Park for $27 million and to build a $23 million pedestrian bridge at Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- and tax dollars were used to build the NCR headquarters near Georgia Tech.
Without enough money for road projects, Shook said council members will now have to prioritize the remaining projects around the city.
“I’ve been talking with my stakeholders and letting them know, 'Hey, there’s going to be some things we may have to put off a couple of years,'” Shook said.
Huddleston explained the issue to some Atlanta taxpayers, who told him they will think twice before approving the next bond or TSPLOST.
“I don’t think we should give them any more money until we found out what they’ve done with the money we’ve already given them. Somebody needs to be accountable for all the money they wasted,” Gwendolyn Webb said.
It's hard to tell if anyone is responsible for the shortfall. The audit found the money spent did not violate bond covenants, but it certainly raised eyebrows.
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