Study: MARTA sales taxes won’t bounce back til 2017
Sales tax collections that support Atlanta’s rapid-transit system will not return to pre-recession levels until 2017, according to a new economic forecast.
MARTA said this week the latest projections, dated July 14, show the transit agency will collect $10.8 million less in FY 2010 than previously believed, blowing a somewhat bigger hole in the transit agency’s current budget. Based on the previous estimate, MARTA cut back bus and rail service and, beginning Oct. 1, raised fares and parking fees.
A closer look at the numbers, obtained Friday by AtlantaUnfiltered, shows sales tax revenue is forecast to dive from a high of $342.6 million in FY2008 to $277 million in FY2011. Projections by Rajeev Dhawan (right), director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, show it would take six more years for collections to climb back to the 2008 level.
Here are the projections, year by year:
2008 — $342.6 million
2009 — $318.4 million
2010 — $286.5 million
2011 — $277.1 million
2012 — $283.6 million
2013 — $292.2 million
2014 — $301.9 million
2015 — $318.2 million
2016 — $336.6 million
2017 — $345.5 million
MARTA plans to hire a public relations and marketing firm soon to help persuade voters — and the Georgia Legislature — to support new funding options for mass transit.
The agency collects a 1 percent tax on sales in Fulton and DeKalb counties, of which no more than 55 percent may be spent on operations. MARTA failed this year to get legislative approval to dip into the remaining 45 percent, which by law is earmarked for construction and maintenance.
This week, MARTA’s ethics committee voted to recommend waiving conflict-of-interest rules so the the contract could go to Edelman Public Relations. Board member Barbara Babbit Kaufman’s daughter is a senior vice president of the firm, but does not work in the division that would perform the MARTA work.