The city of Atlanta’s revenue from a new transportation special local option sales tax is doing fine, according to a City Council member, while the rest of Fulton County worries about lower-than-expected income from a similar, separate tax.

Fulton is planning an audit to solve the mystery of why its TSPLOST revenue is 10 to 30 percent lower than projected since the tax jump from 7 to 7.75 percent took effect April 1. The mystery only deepens with news of Atlanta’s TSPLOST, which went into effect the same day and raised the city’s total sales tax to 8.9 percent, hitting its targets.

Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook, who represents District 7 in northeast Buckhead, said that city Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard reports that both the new TSPLOST and the municipal local option tax for water and sewer service “are meeting projections.”

There are several possible explanations for Fulton’s TSPLOST revenue issue, such as faulty projections, businesses failing to charge the new tax, or lower consumer spending.

The city of Sandy Springs is especially concerned that Atlanta may be getting some of its revenue due to tax-calculating software that confuses the cities due to inaccurate city names on ZIP codes areas. This year, the Reporter confirmed two cases of major businesses — a Starbucks coffee shop and the online promotional product subsidiary of office supply company Staples — charging Sandy Springs customers the different, higher Atlanta sales tax due to that software confusion. But is unclear which city actually received that revenue.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul has said he is seeking an act of the U.S. Congress to get the United States Postal Service to change local ZIP codes to “Sandy Springs” naming to eliminate confusion.

Major money for transportation projects is involved in both TSPLOSTs, which last five years. The Atlanta-only TSPLOST is projected to raise $300 million, while the TSPLOST for the rest of Fulton was projected to raise more than $100 million for Sandy Springs alone. The funds are tied to specific project lists, which could be affected by a lack of money.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.