The Augusta Commission set the official tax rate Thursday, meaning a tiny tax increase for property owners in the old city limits and a slightly larger one for the rest of the county.
On a $100,000 home, annual property taxes in the old city limits, now known as the “urban services district,” will increase from $590.14 to $591.36, a difference of $1.22 in the city’s portion of Augusta tax bills.
A $100,000 home outside the district and in the incorporated area of Blythe will see its tax bill increase from $366.14 to $385.77, a $19.63 increase in property taxes.
Residents of the district are taxed more because garbage collection is included. Residents outside the district pay a separate fee for mandatory trash pickup.
Both rates are set to increase slightly next year under new contracts up for approval by the commission in coming weeks.
Because the increase is being made to a special fire fund, the commission isn’t required to advertise it as a tax increase, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.
“Why is it so difficult to just charge everybody the same taxes across the county?” Commissioner J.R. Hatney asked Russell at Thursday’s called meeting.
Augusta’s disparate tax system, instituted during consolidation, has been studied by a University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government consultant and others, but finding a fair solution that doesn’t exceed Augusta’s tax cap has been elusive, Russell said.
“We’ve yet to come up with a fair way that accomplishes that,” he said.
Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he didn't expect the arrangement to be fixed until someone files suit or the commission is ordered to do so by the Legislature.
The fire tax increase, imposed to cover a reduction in fire insurance premium revenue from the state, will fund fire service everywhere, not just outside the district.