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Industries oppose new tax; employees want better wages

Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 10:08 PM
Last updated 10:30 PM
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Augusta commissioners got an earful from area industries and city employees at a first public hearing Tuesday on the proposed 2014 budget.

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Personnel of the Augusta-Richmond County 911 Center listen as 911 operator Nicole Hill talks about low pay during a 2014 Budget Hearing before the Augusta Richmond County Commission in Tuesday afternoon at the Municipal Building in Augusta November 5, 2013.   Michael Holahan /Staff  MICHAEL HOLAHAN
MICHAEL HOLAHAN
Personnel of the Augusta-Richmond County 911 Center listen as 911 operator Nicole Hill talks about low pay during a 2014 Budget Hearing before the Augusta Richmond County Commission in Tuesday afternoon at the Municipal Building in Augusta November 5, 2013. Michael Holahan /Staff

The Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce, Development Authority of Richmond County, Resolute Forest Products and DSM Chemical sent representatives to speak out against Augusta’s possible implementation of a new excise tax on energy.

City Administrator Fred Russell proposed the tax last year to replace revenue lost to a new state exemption from sales taxes for energy used in manufacturing. He has again suggested implementing the tax, in sufficient amount to cover half the revenue lost in the second year of the phased-in exemption, to generate $1.5 million.

The industry officials said losing any part of the exempted revenue would hurt their business.

“Demand for newsprint is shrinking every day,” said Resolute Forest Products Controller Barbara Cole.

Commissioners also heard from Augusta 911 dispatchers about pay disparities that exist between them and operators at Augusta 311, the city’s customer service line. Some 911 dispatchers make less than 311 operators.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy said it was “only fair” the emergency personnel are compensated as well as the 311 operators and possibly be paid retroactively if the disparity went back months.

“911 without question goes straight to the top in my opinion,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said.

Commissioner Donnie Smith took a moment to “push back” against those who have contacted him about cutting their taxes. Augusta’s taxes are lower than property taxes in the cities of Columbus, Athens, Macon and Savannah, he said.

“That’s my pushback,” Smith said. “If you’re going to use our services, you have to help pay for them.”

Russell said he’d hold another work session next week for commissioners to work on the budget, which includes a raise for all employees as well as an $8.5 million deficit.

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Riverman1
84924
Points
Riverman1 11/06/13 - 06:07 am
4
1
Donnie Smith and Taxes

Donnie Smith, you should fight a little harder to ensure your district, West Augusta, gets its fair share of the money since it pays so much into the county and stop criticizing your constituents who point out they are being taxed unfairly. Let the old city limits of Augusta be compared to Savannah, Columbus, Athens and Macon, not the entire county. I have a feeling your remark is one of those classic ones that will haunt you come the next election.

Riverman1
84924
Points
Riverman1 11/06/13 - 07:32 am
5
1
South Augusta

Realize South Augusta and the industries out there will be hit the greatest by this proposed tax. So what else is new?

Bodhisattva
6307
Points
Bodhisattva 11/06/13 - 07:32 am
1
0
Help me get this straight.

Help me get this straight. The state passed a tax exemption that cut revenue to the cities? Now the city wants to pass a tax to make back up half of that revenue? If the state want to pass exemptions that cut state revenue, let them juggle the books to figure out how to make up for lost revenue. It sounds like old crooked Nathan and his boys shafted the cities, left them short, and now they end up having to look like the bad guys trying to get back close to the break even point. Even if the city adds taxes to offsets the states breaks, the industries are at the same point they were. They've lost nothing, they've gained nothing, and the city's gained nothing and lost nothing. Screwy way to operate.

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