Taxation without ... er, doing stuff

It's pretty rare when you can honestly say the government has made a mistake by not spending enough money.

 

But that's truly the case in Augusta with regard to special purpose local option sales taxes that have been stockpiling while projects have gone undone.

Meanwhile, although interest has been earned on those unspent funds, construction costs have outpaced any interest growth - so the projects would be impossible today with the money budgeted back when.

Indeed, there is a $68 million shortfall, due to rising construction costs - and perhaps the more than two-dozen projects being underbudgeted from the start.

Now, the Augusta Commission's Engineering Committee is recommending taking $4.57 million away from 12 of the projects - which have never even gone into the design stage - and using it on ongoing projects.

This may sound like a mess, but we assure you it is.

In short, the Augusta government has overpromised, overtaxed and underperformed.

It may all be well-intended: commissioners responding to constituent concerns with this or that drainage or widening project. But the city hasn't kept up, even to the point of spending the special purpose local option sales tax monies dedicated to the projects.

Why?

There isn't one answer. Part of it is commissioners historically biting off more than the city can chew. Part of it is an understaffed, overwhelmed city engineering department. Part of it, according to some, is the mismanagement of the department by former city engineer Teresa Smith, fired in December 2005.

In fact, as for the latter, folks are being fairly diplomatic about it, but new city engineer Abie Ladson has had a devil of a time just taking inventory of the undone projects he inherited.

Just the fact that our crack city hall reporter, Sylvia Cooper, could list some of the projects (Page 1, Wednesday, Aug. 1) is a vast improvement.

"He's doing a great job," Mayor Deke Copenhaver said of Ladson - adding that he may need more help.

And commissioners may need to be more realistic in what they expect the city to accomplish.

Maybe we need to decrease expectations and increase performance.

Whatever the solution, the city government is breaking faith with taxpayers by taking in money for special projects and not getting them done.

Either get these projects going or give us back our money.

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Fri, 08/18/2017 - 02:39

Look! Up in the sky!