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Sales tax collections down in Augusta for third month

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Sales tax revenue paid to Augusta-Richmond County dropped for a third straight month in September compared with the previous year, making some officials worry that consumers are abandoning the city for retailers in neighboring counties.

According to data from the city finance office, special purpose local option sales tax collections were down $182,759, or 5.84 percent, and local option sales tax revenue was down $204,320, or 6.68 percent, from September 2011. In July and August, sales tax collections dropped 7.9 and 1 percent, respectively, compared to a year ago.

The news left city officials looking for answers, particularly in light of increases in sales tax revenue distributed by the state Department of Re­venue to Columbia and Burke counties for the month.

“Everybody else went up, and ours went down,” City Administrator Fred Russell said. He speculated that retail growth in Evans, North Augusta and Waynesboro might be luring consumers outside Richmond County.

“If you look at the growth in Columbia County, the growth across the river, it’s easily explained,” Russell said. “In the past, the only place people have had to shop is Augusta.”

The drop leaves Augusta only 0.23 percent below budgeted sales tax receipts for the year. The revenue goes toward capital projects approved by voters and some city services, the bulk of which is $20 million in local option sales taxes budgeted for law enforcement this year.
The decrease means the Rich­mond County Board of Edu­ca­tion, which collects a 1 percent sales tax for capital projects, saw a similar dip.

The state’s method of disbursing sales taxes prevents local officials from knowing where the decreases occurred, officials said. The issue, one that Mayor Deke Copenhaver frequently raises, left city officials at a similar loss in determining the impact of House Bill 386, which eliminated a sales tax on energy used in manufacturing. When the bill takes effect in January, officials can only estimate its impact because they don’t know how much each Augusta factory was paying in sales taxes.

Russell took the drop as further evidence that Augusta needs a dedicated retail development specialist, a new position he has included in the 2013 budget now before the Augusta Commission.

Though the city has a Down­town Development Authority and a Development Authority of Richmond County, which focuses mostly on large industrial development, it has no one to focus on retail, particularly in areas such as south Augusta, where residents complain they have few shops and restaurants.

“It’s somebody that will go fill up empty storefronts downtown and look toward bringing in retail and restaurants in the south parts of Augusta that need them,” Russell said.

The budget prepared by Russell and finance officials includes the new retail position and nine other new jobs, in addition to a $5 million shortfall that the commission must either eliminate or determine how to fill.

The commission has work sessions on the budget Thursday and Monday.

NO ACTION ON INSURANCE

Because Augusta Commission absences prevented a quorum, the city’s administrative services committee took no action Monday on a protest filed by Meritain Health Inc. over the commission’s bid award to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia as third-party administrator of a new self-funded health insurance pool.

City Administrator Fred Russell recommended that the committee uphold his recommendation to deny the protest, which alleged that the city procurement office used miscalculated data in recommending Blue Cross Blue Shield and made a last-minute change in terms that only Blue Cross had data to respond to accurately.

Commissioners Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham, Alvin Mason and Grady Smith were absent Monday.

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Riverman1
79107
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Riverman1 11/13/12 - 02:02 pm
6
0
Small Part of Downtown is Helped

Some have called it to my attention that only a select few benefit from the tax money that's sent downtown. Dichotomy makes terrific points, but some downtown business people are as mad as South Augustans at the way funds are allocated. Everything is shifted over to the TEE and Marriott at the expense of other businesses in the old city. We have given Augusta Riverfront LLC a door into the general fund from now on. Imagine if you owned a hotel out by I-20 or anywhere in the city and the CVB was working diligently with an EXTRA $350,000 a year to market the Marriott. That's not only helping the Marriott, it's HURTING the rest of the venues, including the JB Arena.

Riverman1
79107
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Riverman1 11/13/12 - 11:54 am
6
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Joe Bowles role in all this

Joe Bowles' role in all this is puzzling. Something is fishy.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 11/13/12 - 02:19 pm
3
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S. Augusta

I think there was a Roses and Radio Shack where the Lowe's is now. A Po Folks too. The seafood place I ate at down there was called Williams Seafood. It turned into a sports bar and the you know who screwed up the place eventually shutting it down. Anyway, the good ole boys left and went to CC so S. Augusta was left to ruins.

Riverman1
79107
Points
Riverman1 11/13/12 - 12:26 pm
6
1
The Real Travesty

I want everyone to stop and think what the city could be like if this $100 million TEE, parking deck and Laney Walker payoff, in addition to the many more millions in fees we are learning about that will be in store in the future, had been spent in responsible ways. We could have had one of the most beautiful, safe and vibrant cities anywhere for that kind of money. We are indebted for 50 years and have little to show for it. That's the real travesty in this matter.

Little Lamb
43803
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Little Lamb 11/13/12 - 01:50 pm
5
0
Protest

One way to protest the underhanded deal-making regarding TEE, parking deck, and ANIC corruption would be to vote against the next SPLOST referendum.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/13/12 - 01:58 pm
2
0
There was...
Unpublished

A seafood place right across from Poteet's on Windsor Spring Road called the Ship's Wheel or Captain's Wheel or something like that in the early 80's. That was back when Big Star was still in Windsor Square.

Little Lamb
43803
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Little Lamb 11/13/12 - 02:18 pm
2
0
Seafood

That's probably the one I was thinking about.

Tullie
2930
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Tullie 11/13/12 - 05:07 pm
3
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allhans asked:

Okay guys. But WHERE do you eat?

At home, eating food I prepared. Where do you eat?

Tots
25735
Points
Tots 11/13/12 - 07:11 pm
2
0
Richmond County,

is dead for all i care...I started months ago protesting by spending my money anywhere but here...I drive across the bridge or i go to the other side town..

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/14/12 - 06:08 am
0
0
Augusta Resident said:

I think there was a Roses and Radio Shack where the Lowe's is now. A Po Folks too. The seafood place I ate at down there was called Williams Seafood. It turned into a sports bar and the you know who screwed up the place eventually shutting it down. Anyway, the good ole boys left and went to CC so S. Augusta was left to ruins.

Big Lots is now where Roses used to be.

Williams Seafood was on Wrightsboro Rd, I don't remember one being on Peach Orchard Rd. But that does not mean anything. There could have been one there :o)

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/14/12 - 09:02 am
1
0
Roses moved...
Unpublished

From Peach Orchard Plaza to where Lowe's now sits. Funny the new Walmart they put by Sconyers put them out of business and now a Roses sits where the Walmart was. Why they moved the Walmart to Dean's Bridge Road I will never understand. I know a lot of Southside residents that refuse to go to that Walmart. The customer service is horrible and the area is just not safe anymore.

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