A shrinking tax digest isn’t making setting Augusta tax rates any easier.
Net 2 percent growth in the value of taxable real estate this year has been entirely offset by changes in Augusta’s manufacturing sector, including shutdowns at Fibrant, Shaw Industries and Procter & Gamble.
Last year also saw the removal of hundreds of millions of dollars of personal business property inventory by Starbucks, which recently announced a $120 million expansion of its Augusta soluble products plant.
The four facilities made a combined $315.5 million dent in the digest of taxable business personal property that the city uses to generate maintenance and operations revenue, according to a report from Richmond County Board of Assessors.
Coupled with the continued impact of the elimination of annual vehicle ad valorem taxes – this year it wiped $110.7 million from the digest as residents replaced their cars and trucks – the total digest saw its first net decrease in at least six years.
“I did not have enough (growth) to absorb all the losses that hit us,” Chief Appraiser Alveno Ross said. “We took a hit with personal.”
In real estate, Augusta added $28 million in new taxable property and $247 million through reassessments of existing properties. About 4,500, or 6percent, of all real estate lost value that totaled $77 million.
The new values are used to calculate the tax bills that property owners can expect to see in September after the commission sets the millage. An Augusta Commission calendar showed the body setting a tentative tax rate Tuesday, ahead of commission committee meetings.
The millage – last year the countywide rate was 9.79 – is applied against each $1,000 of a property’s taxable value, which is 40 percent of its assessed value after exemptions, such as the homestead exemption, are applied.
The Richmond County Board of Education, which taxes properties based on a different set of exemptions than the city, lowered its tentative tax rate by 0.018 mills, to 19.736 mills, and anticipates garnering $88 million in taxes on an adjusted total digest of $4.46 billion, down from $4.49 billion last year.
Digest growth could have produced a windfall for both governments and even an opportunity to lower taxes on individual homeowners while producing the same amount of revenue.
Columbia County, for instance, dropped tax rates slightly yet will raise more revenue on an adjusted digest that grew by 6 percent to $5 billion this year.
The Augusta Commission was surprised at the lack of growth in taxable property but did not see increasing the millage as vital. Most said they had not been apprised of the digest changes.
“With all the apartments coming in and the cyber coming in, I would think there would be some growth,” Commissioner Marion Williams said.
“I doubt a raise in the millage is needed,” Commissioner Sammie Sias said.
Commissioners might discuss the digest and tax rate at an 11 a.m. called meeting Tuesday held before committee meetings. Commission committees have several items to consider Tuesday, including tightening laws against placing signs or posters on public rights of way, adding three assistant district attorney positions, approving $1.1 million in adaptations at the Augusta Municipal Building including demolition for parking, and naming the Brigham Center walking track for former Commissioner Bill Lockett.
Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215