North Augusta council gives second OK to budget, tax increases

Rick Berry speaks to North Augusta City Council about his efforts to organize a Kiwanis Club in North Augusta. JAMES FOLKER/STAFF

North Augusta City Council gave second-reading approval to its 2018 budget Monday night, voting 5-1 on consecutive measures to adopt the budget and raise the property and hospitality tax rates.


Council gave a first-reading OK to all three at its last meeting, and likely will hold final votes at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 20.

Councilman Fletcher Dickert voted against the measures at both meetings, saying he thought the process didn’t do enough to explore options to the tax increases. Ken McDowell was absent.

The budget contains a 3-mill property tax increase - about $24 on a $200,000 house - and a 1 percent hike in the hospitality sales tax - about 40 cents on a $40 restaurant tab.

Also Monday, council gave second-reading approval to an increase of 25 cents per 1,000 gallons in the wastewater fee, which is a “pass-through” expense from Horse Creek Water Treatment Plant to pay the city’s share of improvements there.

Dickert and the rest of council supported that by a 6-0 vote.

No residents spoke on the budget, but Fred Ilardi rose after the regular agenda was completed to ask if the city would provide citizens with an implementation schedule on Riverside Village.

“We’re five months from opening a ballpark and I don’t see a garage going up, I don’t see a hotel being built,” he said.

Mayor Bob Pettit said he would make that available.

Ilardi also asked if the city would provide a copy of a recent salary report that relates to the numbers in the budget. Pettit and City Attorney Kelly Zier told him he would need to file a Freedom of Information request, and that the city would have to redact employees’ personal information from the document. They could not give him an estimate about how long that might take.

Ilardi also asked if the city, which makes audio recording of meetings, would post them on its website before the next meeting occurs, so residents who couldn’t attend the meetings would have time to listen before council met again. Currently, the city posts the previous meeting’s audio after it approves the minutes at the next meeting.

Ilardi noted that North Augusta 20/20, a Facebook page that tracks and discusses government policy and actions, was live-streaming Monday’s meeting, and wondered if the city could assume that responsibility, and said it could replace the audio altogether.

Pettit said the city would begin posting the audio “just as soon as we can” after meetings, rather than waiting. He also said he had asked the Information Technology staff to advise him about live-streaming but that he wanted to take his time and “make sure that it’s done in a way that I feel confident is what’s needed.”

Richard Fletcher, administrator of North Augusta 20/20, told council 31 people were watching the live stream at that moment during the meeting and later added that 820 had viewed it as of 10:15 p.m.

He said the group will continue to livestream and “hope to show the City the power of video for reaching a wider audience.”

In other action

Rick Berry told council about his efforts to organize a new Kiwanis Club of North Augusta.

Kiwanis is an international service organization that specializes in service leadership for children. One of its best-known initiatives is Key Clubs in high schools. Although Aiken County has three Key Clubs, there is no club at North Augusta or Fox Creek high schools.

Berry said the new club had 11 prospective members and could form when it had 15.

“This isn’t our father’s civic organization,” he said. “The young folks don’t want to have mashed potatoes and Swiss steak for lunch. Instead, they want the opportunities for service.”

The club also provides high school students with opportunities to learn about leadership and develop their skills, Berry said.