Penny sales tax: What is the money being used for? - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Penny sales tax: What is the money being used for?

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) -  We all pay taxes but do we ever really know exactly how our hard earned dollars are being used?

If you've made a purchase in Columbus over the past two years, you've been paying an extra one percent sales tax.

It's called the Local Option Sales tax, or L.O.S.T.

Seventy percent of the revenue has gone towards public safety improvements. The other thirty percent pays for road and infrastructure projects.

So far, The Columbus Police Department has hired 191 officers with LOST funds. Due to retirements and other officers quitting or being fired, the force still has 16 openings to fill.

The new Office of Crime Prevention was added as well as nine 911 positions, six sheriff's deputies, three new Marshal's deputies and an Assistant District Attorney.

"We've been able to build fire stations and buy fire and EMS equipment and all the things we know that those people, when they come in through Base Realignment and Closure, their number one priority will be public safety and we've been able to take care of those things," said Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

When it comes to roads, officials say eight projects funded in part with L.O.S.T. dollars are in the works.

A brand new road is being created in East Columbus called Panhandle Road to help alleviate traffic on Macon Road.

The heavily congested Whittlesey Road in North Columbus will be widened. City Planning Director Rick Jones says officials are working on getting the right-of-way with the railroad which crosses over the road.

Another major project at the top of the "to do" list is redoing two bridges on Forrest Road in East Columbus. Their deteriorating structure has lead officials to impose a weight limit, forcing buses to take detours every day."

"Other cities and counties are asking how are you able to do all of those things in these tough economic times? We would not have been able to do them without the Local Option Sales Tax," Hugley added.

Some of the infrastructure projects supported by lost monies include the City Service Center coming to Macon Road, the new ice rink next to the Civic Center downtown and the $40 million flood abatement project downtown to help fix flooding problems.

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