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Panel will hunt fix for Augusta's property tax system

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 6:51 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 1:19 AM
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The Augusta Commission took a small step Tuesday toward resolving problems with the city’s flawed property-tax system.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham announced the formation of a special subcommittee to take on the task of examining the issue and coming up with possible solutions for the commission to consider.

In addition to Brigham, the committee will include Com­missioner Bill Lockett, City Administrator Fred Rus­sell, Finance Director Don­na Williams, Richmond Coun­ty Tax Commissioner Steve Kendrick, Chief Tax As­sessor Alveno Ross and Ci­ty Attorney Andrew MacKenzie.

“I will ask different members to gather information and bring it back to share with the committee,” Brigham said. “This is pretty complex question, but I’m hoping to find a solution.”

Augusta’s two-tiered property tax system was instituted more than 16 years ago when the city and Richmond County merged to form a consolidated government. It basically meshed the existing tax structures of the two governments to create a layered system of taxes and user fees that differed based on whether property was outside or within the old city limits. Taxpayers from the two districts now pay different amounts for similarly valued properties.

Ross said he hoped the end result would be a more uniform tax system.

“In a unified government, one has to realize that if the tax structure of it doesn’t also shift, then you haven’t changed anything other than representation,” he said. “In a unified government, you would have one taxing district.”

Implementing any change could take time, Ross said. Big changes could have big financial effects on property owners and the city as a whole, so officials plan to proceed with care.

Much of this will be tied to the political process because it will require elected officials to vote on the changes, Ross said.

“That’s what the elected body does,” he said. “That’s the alligator they will wrestle with, and if we can help we will.”

Brigham said he expects a long, deliberative process because of intertwined issues that must be untangled, such as finding a uniform way to charge for city garbage service and streetlights, adjusting how the city pays for fire service, and dealing with changes to state law that affect local tax revenues.

In addition, any tax system will have to abide by a cap placed on property taxes by voters in 1979.

“I think it is something that needs to be addressed,” Brigham said. “I don’t think it is an easy problem, and I know nobody has all the solutions to it.”

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SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 10/09/12 - 08:50 pm
4
0
Flat tax

Is there a reason why Augusta Richmond County property owners can't pay a "flat property tax" rate? A flat tax would be a fair tax.

dichotomy
35980
Points
dichotomy 10/09/12 - 09:01 pm
8
0
I think I would rather have

I think I would rather have someone qualified and unbiased look at the tax structure......like an out of town GA Supreme Court judge. Anyone affiliated with the commission will have the "protect my district" approach.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/09/12 - 09:36 pm
7
0
dichotomy - makes a good point

1st my hats off to Commissioner Jerry Brigham for doing something.

Raspberry's to the all the commissioners over the last 16 years that choose to ignore the south souths complaints or looked the other way.

SUGGESTED IDEA
Since local politicians were the cause of this problem, a solution might be better accepted (and trusted) if it came from a hired outside consultant.

So why not get an unbiased recommendation that is Equal For Everybody?

Something that does not "accidentally " end up being "surprisingly" more suited to "certain" areas, people, or businesses.

seenitB4
93264
Points
seenitB4 10/10/12 - 05:23 am
7
0
opencurtain..great idea..

SUGGESTED IDEA
Since local politicians were the cause of this problem, a solution might be better accepted (and trusted) if it came from a hired outside consultant.

yep....that is needed..

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/10/12 - 05:39 am
7
0
Oh Please

Implementing any change could take time?

They have not done anything for 16 years, now they finally are taking a small step of getting together a group of local people to "gather" information. All those people should have all the facts at this point on file.

You see Ross says " Big changes could have big financial effects on property owners and the city as a whole, so officials plan to proceed with care."

They are just worried about the City..as usual.

Where was the worry about us when they put all the extra taxes on us out here?

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/10/12 - 05:41 am
7
0
Another thing

Why are they making this so complicated?

You have numbers..you have rates, it needs to be done, if they can't do it this is one thing I agree call in someone that can figure it out then.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/10/12 - 07:20 am
5
0
Wanna bet?
Unpublished

South side taxes stay the same. City taxes go up. The commission can save face by saying we were leveling the playing field. When it's been unlevel for the county the whole time. This will end up as more money to spend downtown....mark my words.

Riverman1
89971
Points
Riverman1 10/10/12 - 07:23 am
8
0
Look for Missing $25,000, Too

Look around for the missing $25,000 while you're at it.

dichotomy
35980
Points
dichotomy 10/10/12 - 07:31 am
6
0
Delaying Action

I think they are taking "this small step" in hopes it will keep someone from suing the crap out of them. They will drag this out forever and will NEVER fix it as long as they can continue to drain the rural taxpayers and give them nothing. They have had 17 years and have done nothing. They knew it was a problem. They knew it was illegal. And they are still doing it to us. The chances of THEM fixing this and doing it fairly are ZERO. Look at the committee. No representation (as usual) for the rural property owners. How about it Commissioner Guilfoyle? Who is representing US on this committee?

We want this fixed.......NOW!!!!!! And we would like it done by someone who has not been screwing us for 17 years. The commissioners, the finance director, the tax assessor, the tax commissioner, the administrator, and the CITY attorney ALL have ZERO credibility on this issuel. They have all either purposely perpetuated this illegal, unequal tax system or they have turned a blind eye to it because it "was too hard to fix"..... or maybe they had a vested interest in keeping things like they are. We want an OUTSIDER, preferably a judge, to fix it.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 10/10/12 - 07:44 am
4
1
Property tax

The county (and the entire county) have been living off of property taxes for over a hundred years. It's time to look at some other way to finance local needs. The tax burden needs to be more fairly spread so that everyone pays. A consumption tax might be one approach.

Little Lamb
47847
Points
Little Lamb 10/10/12 - 08:37 am
5
0
Stormwater

The proposed stormwater utility fee is a property tax in disguise. It's a sneaky way to get around the property tax cap in place now.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/10/12 - 08:40 am
4
0
Just like...
Unpublished

The trash tax...it's added to your property tax bill but it's not really a property tax and it's double what I was paying a private hauler. Who gets the extra money? Either a kickback or an illegal tax.

dichotomy
35980
Points
dichotomy 10/10/12 - 09:56 am
5
0
They want to tax everything

They want to tax everything they can and break it out as a separate fee. I'm surprised they haven't made us all report downtown for anatomical measurements for a B & D tax. The women get the B tax and the men the D tax.

These clods can't agree on anything to help fix problems but seems like they can always pass a tax increase, a garbage fee increase, or implement a new tax like the stormwater tax. But ask them to solve a problem like, oh say 17 years of an illegal tax system, and they all turn into some version of the Three Monkeys....hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Of course, that's in public. Secretly I suspect they are all DOING THE EVIL.

PghSteelersFan
140
Points
PghSteelersFan 10/10/12 - 10:24 am
4
0
Property taxes have been a

Property taxes have been a mess most likely since James Oglethorpe got out of his boat on the riverbank.
When the City and County were separate, City residents paid both City and County property taxes but now it seems everyone is paying some form of 'double duty'.
Easiest way is for the Tax Assessors office to simply take their assessments on all the land in Richmond County and create an 'assessed' value and a 'taxable value' which would be a portion of the assessed value. Example: A property with a $600,000 assessed value would be $240,000 (40%) 'taxable value'. Then the City/County Commission decides on a 'millage rate' for the year to use against the 'taxable value' to get what the actual property tax would be. Everyone pays based on their 'taxable value' and not on a 'layered' system that favors some and hurts others. If a property owner thinks the assessed value is too high, the appeal process is still in force to allow them to challenge it.

As for garbage fees make them the same regardless if they live next to the landfill or clear across the county. Also take those fees along with the storm water fees off the property taxes and put them on the 'water bill' as a monthly charge making sure to divide what is paid annually by 12. Storm water belongs on a water bill anyway because it is basically a sewer system that gets rid of it. If a property owner has a 'private well' and is not on the public water system, then they would simply get a monthly bill for garbage and storm water. Garbage fees should only be assessed on 'improved property' and not vacant land.

Hephzibah and Blythe would set their own millage rates as 'local governments' and if they wished to be part of the garbage collection services, then their residents would be charged on a monthly statement the same as Augusta. The same with the storm water fees if they are required to have the collection system. All residents of Hephzibah and Blythe would have to be on the garbage system and/or the storm water system or their governments would have to find a private hauler for the garbage. To do otherwise wouldn't be very fiscally efficient.

The entire system is very simple and a way to insure that all residents are treated the same and not 'double burdened'. Of course, Augusta has never gone for the simple way to do anything.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/10/12 - 10:47 am
4
0
Taxes

Or they can just get out of the trash business and let everyone get their own trash service. We are out here in Hephzibah, let us get our own service again. We were happy with our trashman before they put him out of business.

Apparently we have our own millage rates out here. We need to find out and go next time to the appeals process and find out all this stuff.

I was not aware that the street light fee was different on our road because we use Jefferson Electric. Thanks to Steve Crawford I understand that at least.

Why would we be charged for stormwater fee when we have a ditch and we have a septic tank? They won't even come out here and put sewer system in. I have asked about it. We have an old water meter that needs to be replaced as well. The only thing I get from them is water.

Little Lamb
47847
Points
Little Lamb 10/10/12 - 10:57 am
2
0
Strange

I learned something a few weeks ago. On Windsor Spring Rd. the garbage hauler hired by the city of Augusta comes as far south as Willis Foreman Rd. There is a little no man's land there south of Willis Foreman but north of the Hephzibah city limit. The Augusta trucks won't go there and the Hephzibah trucks won't go there. There are several houses there, and they have a hard time getting private garbage haulers to agree to come because there are so few of them.

Many of them just put their garbage in vehicles and sneak it into someone's dumpster. One guy I know just burns his in a drum. Not legal, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 10/10/12 - 12:23 pm
6
0
Slippery Slope

I respect Jerry Brigham, but.......anytime politicians start looking at a tax structure my spincter tightens.

First, I agree with a previous post that taxes and specific services need to be separated out just as water charges are handled separately. This should include trash and street lights off the top of my head but I am sure there are others. That way, only those who are served with those functions pay the tab. Figure the cost, divide by the number of those served if service is equal, and you have the fee amount.
With the current structure, it is conceivable someone who couldn't or refused to pay their trash fee attached to their property tax bill could lose their home at auction on the courthouse steps. May not have happened yet, but when you bundle, the potential is there.

Services provided to every household can and should be added to the tax bill. No one can choose to forego fire protection or police protection or roads. Divide by the number of households and apply the tax.

Property tax should still be based a a % of assessed value applied at the current millage rate.

What I fear may happen is all of the costs for these additional services are added up and distributed across the entire county whether you receive the service now or not. Then they would scramble to provide the service after the fact based on who catches on and which wheel squeeks the loudest. In this scenario, rural homeowners get the big WaaHoo in the skizerintas.

my.voice
5080
Points
my.voice 10/10/12 - 01:43 pm
3
0
Why don't we have

Why don't we have professionals look into this? You've basically got the patient diagnosing himself.

dichotomy
35980
Points
dichotomy 10/10/12 - 06:23 pm
4
0
".......anytime politicians

".......anytime politicians start looking at a tax structure my spincter tightens"

rebellious.......ain't that the truth. "We who have ruined you with taxes are going to look at simplifying the methods we use to ruin you because even we no longer understand it nor can we explain it."

soapy_725
43947
Points
soapy_725 10/11/12 - 07:22 am
0
1
The man behind the curtain in ARC is
Unpublished

named Ben Dover. He has you number sheeple. But remember, there are more unrepresented taxpayers in ARC than there are tax collectors.

At least in ARC your tax collector is not related to two thirds of the commissioners.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Ben Dover also controls CC and we suspect most of the country.

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