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Augusta region's transportation tax collections falling below projections

Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 5:27 PM
Last updated Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 1:22 AM
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Sales tax revenue intended to pay for voter-approved transportation projects isn’t rolling in as estimated, raising questions about how projects will be funded within the legislated 10-year period.

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In Richmond County, the only work tied to the tax that is underway is the widening of Wrightsboro Road from Jimmie Dyess Parkway to Bobby Jones Expressway.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
In Richmond County, the only work tied to the tax that is underway is the widening of Wrightsboro Road from Jimmie Dyess Parkway to Bobby Jones Expressway.

Through July, collections for the 13-county region encompassing Rich­mond County were 18.3 percent below projections calculated by the state’s economist when lawmakers and the Georgia Department of Trans­portation pitched the plan to voters.

Just three of 12 regions across the state approved the tax referendum in July 2012. The two other regions are centered on Albany and Vidalia. The 1 percent tax collections started in January.

Region 7 – which includes Augusta – collected $33.9 million through July. The projection was $41.5 million. August numbers won’t be released until the end of September.

Collections got off to a weak start because some vendors did not report the new tax. January’s collections were 28 percent below projections, according to Diana Pope, the director of the financing division of the Geor­gia State Fi­nan­cing and In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion. Later months were better, but still not near estimates.

“We haven’t had a month when we were in the positive to get a gain yet,” Pope said.

State economist Ken Heagh­ney said the variance can largely be explained by House Bill 386, which added tax breaks for agriculture and replaced the ad valorem motor vehicle tax with a one-time title tax due when someone buys a new vehicle.

“Anecdotally, we have heard the agriculture exemption has seen a much bigger take up in usage than expected,” Heaghney said.

Typically, economic forecasts are based on historical data. Because the transportation tax was new, Heaghney used comparable 1 percent sales taxes such as the education local option sales tax used in some cities, he said.

Augusta isn’t the only region struggling to collect the tax as projected. The River Valley (Albany) and Heart of Georgia (Vidalia) regions are 13.5 percent and 18.5 percent below forecasts.

Trans­portation Depart­ment spokeswoman Jill Goldberg said every project promised to voters will be completed but that the weak collections have slowed down construction starts.

By law, a project cannot begin until all the money needed to fund it has been collected. Goldberg said the slow start is giving road planners extra time to ensure projects stay within budget.

“We’re looking at keeping every project as lean and clean as it can be,” she said.

Don Grantham, the Dis­trict 12 transportation board representative, said no changes are being made to the program yet, but some projects might be scaled back. For instance, instead of paving 10 miles of road just five miles could be paved, he said.

Who knows? Maybe the second, third and fourth years we will be overbudgeted,” he said.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

Collections for voter-approved transportation projects, through July:

REGIONCOLLECTEDPROJECTEDDIFFERENCE
Region 7 (Augusta)$33.9 million$41.5 million$7.6 million
Region 8 (Albany)$25.6 million$29.6 million$4 million
Region 9 (Vidalia)$15.9 million$19.5 million$3.6 million

Source: Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission

IN PROGRESS

In Richmond County, the only transportation sales tax project with construction underway is the widening of Wrightsboro Road from Jimmie Dyess Parkway to Bobby Jones Expressway. Of the $18.6 million budgeted, $2 million comes from the tax.

Widening of Old Petersburg Road in Columbia County, a $20 million project, is expected to begin in October, according to Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Cissy McNure.

Under the tax initiative, local governments receive 25 percent of the collections for minor projects that were not on the voter-approved list. Richmond County, not including Blythe and Hephzibah, received $1.8 million through July.

Of the discretionary funds, the city’s engineering department allocated $275,000 for maintenance such as right of way cleaning, tree work and grass cutting, said engineering director Abie Ladson. An additional $700,000 will be used for maintenance this year.

– Meg Mirshak, staff writer

Comments (23) Add comment
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griff6035
3944
Points
griff6035 09/14/13 - 08:47 pm
11
0
TRANSPORTATION TAX

I voted against it, that's all I have to say.

Little Lamb
44969
Points
Little Lamb 09/14/13 - 08:56 pm
9
0
Me Too

Now that it is a done deal, let us stop fretting over the fact that actual collections are lagging behind the projections. Just take whatever money comes in and spend it on the roads. Is that so hard?

dichotomy
31716
Points
dichotomy 09/14/13 - 11:30 pm
9
0
Everything is cheaper in

Everything is cheaper in North Augusta. No TSPLOST tax. And the CHEAPER gasoline makes the short drive worth the trip. Top of your tank, have lunch, do your shopping, save money, and let the fools in Richmond County that voted for the TSPLOST tax PAY the TSPLOST tax.

You know, when you keep adding on those pennies here and there and you finally pee off the people enough that they stop shopping here, you don't just lose that last 1% tax, you lose ALL 8% of the sales taxes.

The next thing we need to do is REJECT the next optional SPLOST they put on the ballot and get start getting our PENNIES back.

JRC2024
8285
Points
JRC2024 09/15/13 - 12:03 am
3
2
I would think that you would

I would think that you would support it here since you drive on the roads. We do need alot of road maintenance ya know.

burninater
9367
Points
burninater 09/15/13 - 04:22 am
5
0
Not sure why y'all are paying

Not sure why y'all are paying taxes instead of just leaving the road building to the private sector. Seems kind of silly. I mean, they build that, right?

Riverman1
81495
Points
Riverman1 09/15/13 - 04:47 am
7
0
It appears Grantham and

It appears Grantham and Goldberg are saying two different things.

nocnoc
40511
Points
nocnoc 09/15/13 - 07:26 am
11
0
We did tell them it would happen in Augusta?

When just across the river has lower prices, lower taxes, gas that is 10 to 15 cents cheaper and a less likelihood of being robbed in the parking lot while shopping or filling up.

wildman
1040
Points
wildman 09/15/13 - 07:54 am
10
1
Voted NO!

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Fill up sometimes twice a week in SC. Georgia voters in ths region missed it.

rebellious
20514
Points
rebellious 09/15/13 - 07:59 am
12
1
if you want

Less of something, tax it. The fact that TSplost reciepts aren't hitting projections, when projections were based on historic sales figures means sales are down as people vote with their wallets. As many businesses are clinging to survive, watch for closures, layoffs and higher unemployment. Then the Politicos will stand with arms outstretched saying "what happened"! "Who knows" indeed!

Little Lamb
44969
Points
Little Lamb 09/15/13 - 09:09 am
10
1
Shopping

Rebellious has correctly identified the culprit of the low collections — we have changed our shopping patterns. We now shop more in South Carolina or those remaining mail-order companies who have not yet started charging Georgia sales tax on mail orders (and there are plenty that do not charge sales tax).

rmwhitley
5538
Points
rmwhitley 09/15/13 - 10:33 am
0
0
The "white cracker"
Unpublished

has more money than he can spend so go get his. It's well documented that only whites ride public transportation.

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 09/15/13 - 11:23 am
1
10
What shopping centers parking

What shopping centers parking lots in North Augusta are safer compared to Augusta?

Can I please hear the name of the shopping center lot in North Augusta that is more safer compared to the parking lot where Costco, the movie theater, and Cabela's in Augusta is located?

The parking lots in North Augusta can't be any safer if the the majority of commercial developments are coming to Richmond County this year..

Nobody is driving to North Augusta just because of T Splost. The people who are going there to shop/fill up on gas were already doing this before..

If everybody was all of an sudden going to North Augusta. Their would be more than one large commercial development coming to North Augusta(the Walmart shopping center at I-20/exit 5)..

Darby
24812
Points
Darby 09/15/13 - 11:36 am
11
1
I wonder, if Rick were to draw a cartoon of

Countyman, would he depict him in a little skirt with pompoms?

And what would the scoreboard behind him be telling us?

I like Augusta. I chose to live here when I retired, but I keep my eyes wide open. I'm not moving to North Augusta or Columbia County.

On the other hand, I'm not blind to reality.

Darby
24812
Points
Darby 09/15/13 - 11:40 am
9
0
Don Grantham - "......For instance, instead of

paving 10 miles of road just five miles could be paved." "Who knows? Maybe the second, third and fourth years we will be overbudgeted,” he said.

Or, who knows, maybe one day our politicians will wake up and understand that the well is running dry.

localguy55
5477
Points
localguy55 09/15/13 - 11:43 am
4
0
Good roads are needed. So,

Good roads are needed. So, why does it take so long and why when a year or so ago some roads were managable but now are crowded with so many cars? Answer, governments do not talk to each other and consider an existing roads ability to hand additional cars due to new developement of new subdivisions and businesses. A developer can throw up a 50 house subdivision on a two lane road and in 6 months 100 or more cars inhabit that part of the road. Multply that by 2 or three new subdivisions and now the road can't hand the additional cars. And it takes years to design and reconstruct even a small piece of an existing road. That's it in a nut shell.

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 09/15/13 - 12:28 pm
2
6
Darby... What's the problem

Darby... What's the problem with my comment?

How can places like West Augusta be richer compared to North Augusta? But some people are wanting to portray all of the parking lots in North Augusta are somehow safer..

I guess the parking lots in Columbia County, Burke, McDuffie, etc must be less safe compared to North Augusta too. Since the entire region has less than expected revenue..

Everybody can't be rushing to North Augusta if the only large private commercial development is the Walmart shopping center. The Bass Pro coming to the Columbia/Richmond line obviously must not be too concerned about TSplost..

Why do all of the regions have less revenue than expected if some want us to believe Aiken County is the reason for Augusta?

Does anybody honestly believe that private companies wouldn't flock to North Augusta if TSPLOST was bringing all of this additional customers?

dichotomy
31716
Points
dichotomy 09/15/13 - 01:14 pm
8
0
I never said everyone was

I never said everyone was flocking to North Augusta. I just said "I am" and that everything is cheaper over there.....especially the gas.

And for the person who feels that I should be happy to pay the tax since I use the roads, well, WE were already paying PLENTY of tax to build and maintain roads. But it gets ripped off and used in the metro Atlanta area and then we get told "oh, if you want roads you need to pay another tax". So, now I don't pay the 1 cent TSPLOST and I buy my fuel in SC so Atlanta don't get my state gasoline tax. I can't pull off a full blown tax revolt without going to jail but this is ONE way I can flip the tax and spend politicians the bird and I use every opportunity to do that.

Sweet son
9988
Points
Sweet son 09/15/13 - 01:41 pm
7
0
@burninator

Private companies build roads but they are funded by our tax dollars!

Dixieman
13929
Points
Dixieman 09/15/13 - 06:46 pm
6
0
Explanation

In a totally unrelated development -- no, really, there's no relationship at all -- sales tax revenues in Aiken County rose 18.3% during the same period.

Politicians really are idiots. They think that if they raise taxes on something, people will not notice, or if they do notice they will not change their behavior by -- oh, I dunno -- taking their shopping $ elsewhere. Guess what, folks in Atlanta and DC -- not all of us are sheep. And we are organizing to kick you out of office.

Darby
24812
Points
Darby 09/15/13 - 04:52 pm
4
0
Countyman - Nothing personal intended...

I simply prefer "cautiously optimistic" to "irrational exuberance".

I find it hard to accept that your enthusiasm is always supported, or justified by the qualitative or quantitative fundamentals involved.

augusta citizen
8975
Points
augusta citizen 09/15/13 - 06:36 pm
1
0
It's not just you!

dichotomy, It's not just you, since the TSPLOST passed, I have done everything possible to not spend any money in ARC. Not saying that I haven't spent any at all, but I've sure put the kibosh on most of it. I spend in N. Aug. and Columbia County. I know that we have the TSPLOST in Columbia County, but since the voters in Col. Cty. didn't vote for it, but got stuck with it because of the ARC voters, it doesn't offend me as much there. I was going to Costco regularly and have hardly been at all since.

nocnoc
40511
Points
nocnoc 09/15/13 - 06:48 pm
4
0
"Nobody is driving to North Augusta just because of TSplost."

Well, we just returned from North Augusta TODAY in fact.

The wife and I ate at Gary's Hamburger North Augusta
Ticket #190
2 burgers and 2 Fries and 2 drinks and
1 great red velvet cupcake
$18.79
Time 13:31 #02 Sep, 15 '13 REG001

She went back an ordered 2 red velvet cupcakes to go.
$5.40
Time 13:58 Term ID 1412 #02 Sep, 15 '13
These are great with a white cream frosting and a sparkle of nuts on top.

We then drove over to Kmart and purchased 7 items:
Some clothing items, Rayvac twin pack (16) hearing aid batteries #13, a Kenmore small utility fan.
TAX $4.82
Purchase total $93.70
$20.00 discounted due to frequent purchases.
9/15/2013 Time 2:56pm Register #2 -- Jessie, an older
Black-American woman was our cashier, she was very pleasant and very friendly, while ringing us up.

I filled the car up at Murphy's $3.11 a gallon $46.50
(11 cents p/gal lower than Martinez and 14 cents lower than the South Side this morning)

All told we spend just over $211. dollars this afternoon in N/A SC.

Because taxes, gas and food is lower priced
We likely save $10 to $15 and had a great peaceful and enjoyable time. Lots of Good parking, and interacted with well mannered people and store staff.

Times that by 50 trips a year that is $500 to $750 saved a year.
That is enough to buy some serious ammo for target practice and still take the wife out somewhere good to eat a few times more that before a year.

Countyman
Seriously we started doing this on a regular basis last year, because it is just as close for us on the South Side to hop over to SC as it is to drive up to Martinez.

In North Augusta we normally find it:
It is safer, It is less expensive, It is less trafficy, It has better parking, better maintained streets, and store parking lots, and It generally cleaner.

Sweet son
9988
Points
Sweet son 09/15/13 - 07:35 pm
1
0
Less money

Less for the bureaucrats to waste!

September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month.

Know the symptoms of this deadly disease!

nocnoc
40511
Points
nocnoc 09/16/13 - 08:31 am
1
0
$211 does not sound like much lost

but times that by 50 weeks a year.
That $10,550.00 a Year we don't spend in ARC.

$10,550.00 x .06 for taxes = $633.00 in taxes NOT collected from just me.

Conservatively lets say 1/2 of 1 percent of ARC (1,000) people do the same. That is $633,000.00 LESS IN COLLECTED TAXES and that is likely a Low figure.

Since every dollar spent somewhere tends to generate 3x more in tax revenue locally That means ARC and GA are losing out on plus or minus $1.8 million by over taxing to cover their waste and abuse.

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