Sales tax referendum clears procedural hurdle

Augusta’s special purpose local option sales tax referendum passed a final procedural hurdle Thursday with the Augusta Com­mission signing off on an agreement with Hephzibah and Blythe.

While several commissioners have missed sessions on the tax package and expressed displeasure with the speed at which it was developed, nine of them attended a called meeting and voted unanimously to approve the agreement. Only Commissioner Marion Wil­liams
and Mayor Deke Co­pen­haver were absent.

The deal, required by Georgia law, specifies the funding breakdown among Augusta-Richmond County, Heph­zi­bah and Blythe if voters approve the referendum May 20.

Under the agreement, when collections begin in 2016, funds go first to interest and principal on a $21.7 million general obligation bond that will accompany the tax question on the ballot. Next, up to $987,500 will be paid to Blythe and up to $2.85 million will be disbursed to Hephzibah in both 2016 and 2017. Hephzibah will also receive up to $890,000 a year in 2018-2020, fulfilling the obligations to the two small municipalities. All remaining collections, which Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said typically run around $3 million a month, go to the Augusta-Richmond County projects.

The tax package totaled $194 million, including $8.375 million for Hephzibah and $1.975 million for Blythe.

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Complete agreement between Augusta-Richmond County, the City of Blythe and the City of Hephzibah on SPLOST allocations (.pdf)
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