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Collections of road tax lag behind projections

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 8:50 PM
Last updated 11:46 PM
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Collections of the new transportation sales tax are below state projections for a fifth month in the Augusta region and two other Georgia regions where voters approved the tax, according to state data released Tuesday.

Transportation sales tax money is funding the widening of Wrightsboro Road, which should be finished in 2015.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
Transportation sales tax money is funding the widening of Wrightsboro Road, which should be finished in 2015.

The extra 1-cent tax on sales fell 14.7 percent be­low state estimates for the Central Savannah River Area region in May, generating $827,741 less than the state’s projections, which it revised in November.

For the first five months of the year, transportation sales tax collections for the 13-county CSRA region are down 14 percent overall. Collections in the two other areas with the tax, the Columbus-area River Valley district and Vidalia-area Heart of Georgia-Altamaha district are down 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

While the tax runs out in 10 years and the voter-approved schedule of transportation projects isn’t easy to change, the lower collections aren’t cause for alarm, said Don Grantham, former Augusta commissioner who now represents the area on the state transportation board.

“We’ve only been in this thing six months and from the first three months, I still don’t think we’ve recovered,” Grantham said. In its early days, many businesses lagged in collecting the extra 1 cent tax, while new state exemptions cut unexpected amounts from sales tax revenues.

Seventy-five percent of collections are banked to fund the designated pro­jects, while 25 percent becomes “discretionary” money, based on a formula, for municipalities to use on smaller projects. Since January, Augusta-Richmond has received $1.3 million in discretionary funds, while its small southern neighbor Blythe has garnered $1,297, according to the state data.

Augusta Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said the state has made so many changes to its sales tax program this year that 2013 “will be our new base year for making any future analysis.”

The transportation sales tax dollars are already at work on Augusta’s Wrights­boro Road widening project, Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said.

Cassell said it was too early to worry about lower collections.

“Hopefully we’ll have years when we are ahead,” he said.

Augusta Engineering is contracting with Geor­gia Department of Transport­ation to serve as administrator over Richmond County projects. Going before the commission next week is an intergovernmental agreement between the two, as well as an advance of $2 million from the city’s fund balance to cover the start of projects, to be reimbursed with state-held transportation sales tax dollars at 60-day intervals as the projects advance.

At the end of 10 years, any revenues left over are to be reimbursed to the municipalities as discretionary funds, Grantham said. Should revenues not cover the entire list of projects, the cities must narrow the scope of the remaining projects, he said.

“It’s not that bad right now, seriously,” Grantham said. “We don’t know if some of these projects are going to cost as much as anticipated in the beginning.”

The only suggestion Grantham had for increasing the district’s collections is verifying that the tax is being collected.

“Maybe doing a little more policing and scrutinizing of businesses that collect that tax,” he said.

TRANSPORTATION TAX PROJECTIONS
DISTRICTJAN.-MAY PROJECTIONACTUAL
CSRA$28.3 million$24.3 million
River Valley$20.3 million$18.2 million
Heart of GA$13.9 million$11.5 million
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Little Lamb
47012
Points
Little Lamb 07/09/13 - 11:09 pm
10
0
Mail Order

I have made several mail order purchases in the last three months. Only one of them (Lands End) charged GA sales tax. The others charged no sales tax. Advice - -- use mail order and avoid the TSPLOST.

gargoyle
18677
Points
gargoyle 07/09/13 - 11:31 pm
8
0
I'm with ya Little Lamb .My

I'm with ya Little Lamb .My drop in the bucket has been going else were also . Since I've been filling up in N.Augusta and have found restaurants and retailers outside the Richmond County that fit the bill nicely . Actually TSPLOST showed us we have many good choices we didn't know about, Allot of conversations in our house start out with I need gas lets go eat at........

landlord712
10
Points
landlord712 07/09/13 - 11:58 pm
8
1
What did they expect?

Note that Columbia County did not support this tax. Increasing the tax rate in the middle of a recession - what did they think would happen when shoppers have choices? If it were not for Costco, my shopping on the Georgia side of the river would be zero. By forcing me to North Augusta, I discovered that their tax on groceries is zero. I either shop in South Carolina or on the internet. Not only are the local governments not getting my taxes, but the local retailers are not getting my sales.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 07/10/13 - 03:53 am
6
0
ditto the above comments

ditto the above comments

rebellious
21305
Points
rebellious 07/10/13 - 07:04 am
7
0
Boondoggle

So the City of Augusta has underwritten these projects with 2 million. As I anticipated, people are voting with their feet by spending outside the TSPLOST area.

Next Prediction....the last projects on the list will never happen. Can you say "Windsor Spring Road Widening"? Not gonna happen.

But let's move up these projects designed to expedite the commute into neighboring counties. Makes perfect sense to me!

nocnoc
45116
Points
nocnoc 07/10/13 - 07:14 am
7
0
TAX collection is up against basic mathematics.

The more you tax, the less people can spend to be taxed on.
So any tax based on spending collects less revenue with each new tax added on top of existing taxes.

I figured that out and I am just a dumb taxpayer.

nocnoc
45116
Points
nocnoc 07/10/13 - 07:22 am
4
0
Regarding Voting with their

Regarding Voting with their feet.

I have taken to purchasing fuel across the river.
Its usually a dime a gallon cheaper and the SC taxes are cheaper for shopping.

SC Store item prices are lower also in Department store and Super Markets GA vs. SC.

So how does SC DOT do it.
Lower taxes than neighboring states is generating increased border fuel sales and as a result increased DOT tax revenue. That is 1 of many reasons why SC does not have a TSPLOST.

nocnoc
45116
Points
nocnoc 07/10/13 - 07:33 am
4
0
Internet purchases vs. local

Sure I wait 4-6 days for delivery.

I avoid 7%++ in taxes.
I usually get free shipping.
I usually save 33% or much more.
A recent great purchased a Leupold SX-1 Ventana 20-60x80 Spotting Scope for $199 which even at discount was being sold in stores for $399. Normal retail was $599.

I also subscribe to Daily Internet Deals like: Dailydeals.com, Woot.com and others.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Maybe if we sit back and allow Government to tax everything but food, Healthcare and the internet. Maybe they tax themselves out of existence.

southern2
6629
Points
southern2 07/10/13 - 08:14 am
5
0
Wanna increase tax revenue?

Wanna increase tax revenue? Lower the tax rate from 8% to 5%. Even the 8% rate on a McDonald's burger causes my blood pressure to rise, on second thought maybe it was the burger.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/10/13 - 08:26 am
0
0
The only power citizens have. Their tax money. Money Talks.
Unpublished

The only power citizens have. Their tax money. Money Talks.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/10/13 - 08:27 am
0
0
Gives "North of the Border" a whole new meaning. LOL LOL
Unpublished

Gives "North of the Border" a whole new meaning. LOL LOL

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/10/13 - 08:28 am
0
0
GA does get your auto sales tax if you buy in SC.
Unpublished

GA does get your auto sales tax if you buy in SC.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/10/13 - 08:29 am
0
0
We'll pass the law and then see what affect it has on society.
Unpublished

We'll pass the law and then see what affect it has on society.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 07/10/13 - 08:31 am
0
0
resident
501
Points
resident 07/10/13 - 09:20 am
4
0
Smart people spend what they see as value

1 cent does not sound like much but when you figure out the amount of difference on an item of large cost it adds up quickly. There was a push to free up credit so people could get cards at department stores (although extortion interest rates it does make people more apt to purchase) this would have been great for the economy etc...The issue is when getting an estimate from a sales person use rooms to go or Ashley as examples, the price buying it in Aiken is say for example 20, maybe $30 cheaper at no additional cost because it is delivered with the same charge. What do you think someone will do. Gas 10 cents per gallon cheaper...What would an economy minded person do, consolidate buy grocery, gas, other things all in one trip at a much reduced cost.....Great idea....more tax because revenue from TSPOLT down...bad idea..Don't you love it the politiciand are trying to mess with numbers by changing their basis numbers to say just 2013, or a window they think will make it look rosier, or the comissioner that says oh don't worry about this trend that is not really a trend...

Little Lamb
47012
Points
Little Lamb 07/10/13 - 09:45 am
4
0
Ever-running story

It dawned on me that Susan McCord has hit a gold mine with this story. She can re-run this story every month when the revenue department issues its monthly update of the figures. Just open up the old Microsoft Word file, update the numbers, change the quotes from Don Grantham, and "boom" you've met your deadline for another story.

To use a different wrinkle, how about focusing the story on the "projection" side instead of the "actual collection" side? Who was the moron who made the projections? What certifications does he have? Has he suffered a pay cut because of his faulty projections? Who is holding him accountable for his inaccuracies?

Dixieman
15999
Points
Dixieman 07/10/13 - 10:45 am
5
0
Static behavior fallacy

Governments always project that if they increase taxes the sheeple will just keep doing the same thing -- not turn to the Internet, drive a few miles to a lower tax jurisdiction, change their purchasing habits, etc. Duh! Economic behavior does not remain static when taxes are changed. Fortunately we are not sheep and we change our behavior in response to new taxing efforts as shown by the posters here. I too have discovered the charms of North Augusta and amazon.com.
This whole TSPLOST thing was a joke from the get-go.

dichotomy
34495
Points
dichotomy 07/10/13 - 10:53 am
4
0
Everything is cheaper in

Everything is cheaper in North Augusta.....and their price of gas makes it worth the drive.

I, and apparently many like me, are starting to do EVERYTHING possible to avoid paying additional taxes whenever possible. I shop in North Augusta.....I buy off of the internet and will continue to do so as long as that option is available......I buy used items from individuals both locally and off of eBay.......I make an effort to starve the tax monster. Remember the old saying...feed a cold and starve a fever? Well our politicians are all running a TAX FEVER and it's time to STARVE A FEVER. We need to start putting THIER butts back on the street and electing people who can live within a budget......and that especially means the school board. They have BLOWN the property taxes we pay them AND the EDUCATION SPLOST and they are still coming back for more. THE WELL HAS A BOTTOM AND YOU INCOMPETENT POLITICIANS HAVE REACHED IT. Shop in North Augusta or somewhere else. Let the people who approved the SPLOSTs taxes in RC pay them. Take your business across the river.

If the TSPOLST collections are below projections, then ALL sales taxes are below projections in those "regions". May this FACT slap our politicians up side the head like a 2x4. Ever heard the expression "killed the goose that laid the golden egg"?

EVERYTHING IS CHEAPER IN NORTH AUGUSTA !!!!!!!!!!!

Riverman1
87131
Points
Riverman1 07/10/13 - 11:02 am
8
1
Effects on Aiken County

A story about the beneficial effects of the increased revenue in Aiken County would be worthwhile. Don Grantham may have done more to hasten the demise of Richmond County than anyone.

countyman
20628
Points
countyman 07/10/13 - 12:51 pm
1
6
Tsplost

The demise of Richmond County? The TSPLOST is for 13 counties in the CSRA, but of course the sky can only fall in Richmond County.

The construction on Mike Padgett is right around the corner, and Windsor Spring is coming soon too.

wagoss
55
Points
wagoss 07/10/13 - 01:12 pm
5
1
countyman...

Weren't those two projects scheduled to let by DOT well before the TSPLOST passed?

Also, I think the reason they are pointing out Richmond County is that it has the easiest access to North Augusta to shop. Although there are 12 other counties, I think 10 cent cheaper gas doesn't appeal as much to those in Jefferson or Burke County because they have to drive too far. To me, it's never added up to save enough to drive over, but if I have another reason to go to N. Augusta, I definitely fill up over there.

corgimom
34215
Points
corgimom 07/10/13 - 08:34 pm
3
0
This is why the latest,

This is why the latest, greatest plan to bring retail to Downtown Augusta is not a good idea- more and more people use the Internet, I used to shop at stores all the time, now, I hardly ever do. And when I do, it's for necessities and then I leave.

badmoon426
1187
Points
badmoon426 07/10/13 - 09:24 pm
2
0
Strange Thing Indeed...

...that the State Republican Party was fully behind TSPLOST.

So when did the Republican Party supposedly the Party of President Reagan become the 'tax and spend' party?

badmoon426
1187
Points
badmoon426 07/10/13 - 09:35 pm
1
0
Big Daddy...

...Grantham pretty much is trying to put lipstick on a pig on this unloved tax. It's creation and birth fall squarely on the collective shoulders of the Governor and his Gold Dome cronies.

Seven months into the year and overall collections are off by an average of 14% in the three regions and it makes me wonder how much is this biting into graft that was supposedly going to be driven by the TSPLOST.

Now that would really be an even better story than a career politician's misinformation on TSPLOST.

badmoon426
1187
Points
badmoon426 07/10/13 - 09:45 pm
1
0
Countyman...

...there you go again! I love the use of factoids that don't have any bearing on the real topic.

I believe one project that does have roots in the TSPLOST is the Berckmans Road project; however, it is not looked upon favorably by the property owners affected by the proposed project.

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