Augusta residents are set to vote on the consolidated government’s latest special purpose local option sales tax package in a referendum today. An Augusta Chronicle series on the 1 percent sales tax collection concludes today.
Q: If SPLOST 7 fails, how will the city pay for ongoing renovations at the Augusta Municipal Building?
A: While $18 million of the renovation project is paid from SPLOST 6, Augusta commissioners pointed to the new tax package to cover the remaining expense of the massive renovation project and authorized a five-member panel, the Urban Redevelopment Agency, to issue $28.5 million in SPLOST 7-backed bonds for the project.
Pushed in March to get bonds issued to cover project bills, the agency cautiously approved the issue, acknowledging that if the tax ballot failed, the city’s capital outlay budget would be depleted about $2.9 million annually to cover debt service until a SPLOST source is approved.
However, the agency was dissolved last week and its approval of the bond issue voided upon realization that three of its members – Henry Ingram, Terry Elam and Larry Jones – violate a city ordinance by serving on more than one board.
“It was decided the better course would be to have people appointed and not try to find some legal exception to hang your hat on,” said Jim Plunkett, the special city counsel for the bond issue, who expected only a short delay before a new panel approved a new issue.
One of two legal appointments on the board, Brad Owens, said Plunkett’s decision to dissolve the panel and redo the issue ran counter to excuses Plunkett and city staff made in March to get the issue approved – that without it, the project would run out of funds and grind to a halt.
“That’s what we were told was going to happen,” Owens said.
– Susan McCord, staff writer