Two Augusta commissioners are seeking an opinion from the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens on the city’s disbursement of sales tax proceeds to non-profit entities.
The previous and proposed expense of special-purpose, local option sales taxes on construction projects by nonprofit organizations such as Paine College, Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Mini Theater was among issues raised by voters and activists who rejected the city’s SPLOST 7 referendum May 20.
Commissioner Marion Williams prompted discussion about the non-profits using the funds last week in an agenda item questioning a requirement that some entities, such as the Mini Theater, use the city’s procurement department for purchasing goods and services paid for with SPLOST while other nonprofits did not have to use the office.
“How do some entities have to follow Augusta-Richmond County contractual requirements and other entities do not?” Williams asked. “We can’t have two separate rules for two separate groups.”
But commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle and Donnie Smith pushed for a further examination of the practices related to nonprofit entities under the state’s SPLOST laws last week in light of the city’s next planned sales tax referendum in 2015.
“We have to make sure we do it right,” Guilfoyle said, to avoid “a lot of controversy; a lot of questions.”
Smith said the city should also ask Olens’ office if the city’s practice of giving the funds to nonprofits is appropriate or the city should “add some more rules to deal with that.”
Deputy General Counsel Wayne Brown told the commissioners that the attorney general’s office may or may not elect to respond to the city’s request, and at Commissioner Ben Hasan’s suggestion, the city will also ask Augusta legislators to seek the same opinion by way of the office of legislative counsel.
The matter goes before the full commission for discussion and a vote at a 2 p.m. meeting today.