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Commission talks of raising taxes

Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 9:06 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 7:32 AM
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Tempers flared and no decisions were made, but Augusta’s city administrator and commission are giving more lip service to the prospect of raising property taxes and imposing an excise tax on energy to balance next year’s city budget, which by latest estimates shows a $7.9 million deficit.

City Administrator Fred Russell began a Tuesday meeting discussion with some history and a comparison. Augusta hasn’t raised its property tax millage rate – the amount charged against each $1,000 of a property’s taxable value – since 2007, when it increased the rate by .25 mills to 8.149 mills.

Moreover, continued Russell, Augusta’s 8.042-mill tax rate is lower than similar countywide rates in Fulton, Bulloch, Chatham, Dougherty, Bibb, Clarke and Muscogee, the home counties of Georgia’s largest cities.

Muscogee, in fact is “double ours,” said Russell, of the Columbus-Muscogee consolidated government, recently reported to be approaching Augusta-Richmond’s claim to have second-largest population in Georgia.

But as Russell went on to explain his plan to balance the 2014 budget, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle grew hot behind the dais and told Russell that in other large cities the administrator balances the budget, rather than asking the commission to do it.

Russell, his voice rising, said that was impossible.

“Let me suggest to you at the end of the day I will be making cuts and I will be doing things that you might not want me to do as a group,” he said.

Guilfoyle said if Russell hadn’t found a consensus, it was because several commissioners had been out of town and not examined the issues closely.

After the meeting, Guilfoyle said he was frustrated Russell’s proposal omitted all the suggestions he and a handful of other commissioners spent hours going over with Russell in private meetings, such as reverting to 2012 budget levels, eliminating $1 million for maintenance and $500,000 for security at Augusta Municipal Building and moving Information Technology in with Utilities, which is remodeling the former main library branch, rather than constructing a new IT building.

Russell instead on Thursday proposed to balance the budget with the following:

• An administrative fee on law enforcement “specials” to generate $250,000

• A 1-mill property tax increase, to raise $4 million

• Increases in recreation and business license fees, to generate $300,000

• Selling the former library to Utilities for $500,000

• Selling the licensing building on Marvin Griffin Road for $400,000

• Adding one new attorney each for the District Attorney and Public Defender’s offices, rather than several employees each requested

• A $500 across-the-board raise for all staff, instead of $1,500

• Mothballing the old Joint Law Enforcement Center, to save $350,000

• Converting city buses to run on compressed natural gas, which Russell said will save $200,000

• Transferring mosquito control to Environmental Services, to save $160,000

In the discussion that followed, commissioners Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett and Bill Fennoy said they were warming up to the idea of imposing an excise tax on energy used by manufacturers. The state exempted the factories from sales taxes, but allowed local governments to impose an excise tax to replace part of the lost revenue.

Lockett said he favored both the excise tax and a property tax hike of 1.5 mills.

“No business person in his right mind would try to operate a business under the conditions we operate,” and a majority of residents wouldn’t object to paying an extra $1 a week in property taxes “for a clean city,” Lockett said.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said the city’s new buildings are larger and bound to cost more.

“The service is not going to get any cheaper,” and the city should “stop beating around the bush” and raise property taxes, he said.

Fennoy said residents routinely demand services but the city lacks the revenue to pay for them.

“If this is to be the Garden City, a beautiful city, then we’re going to have to pay for services,” Fennoy said.

Favoring the excise tax but not a property tax hike, Commissioner Donnie Smith said the group overlooked the mill rate increase’s impact on larger property owners.

According to a city chart, a 1-mill increase will cost Georgia Power some $80,000, Columbia Nitrogen $92,000 and Augusta National Golf Club about $70,000.

“It goes beyond just a dollar a week,” Smith said.

Lockett’s motion drew three supporting votes, and the group voted instead to continue discussions until a Dec. 2 deadline.

Comments (26) Add comment
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nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/19/13 - 09:59 pm
12
1
We have said it before....

Stop all NEW spending.
Fix what we have already in need of repairs and maintenance,
before adding another "IT WILL SAVE DOWNTOWN" type project.

How many new taxes or SPLOSTS, TSPLOSTS and Service FEE's does that make in the last 4 years?

How much of these of the taxes collected from District 6 & 8 are
re-invested back into District 6 & 8 vs DOWNTOWN?

Inquiring (VOTING) Minds would like to know.

T-Minus 126 days

Riverman1
94496
Points
Riverman1 11/19/13 - 10:04 pm
8
0
Excise Tax

Georgia Power has to pay an excise tax on energy? Augusta National? I don't think of either one as USING lots of energy.

nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/19/13 - 10:07 pm
14
0
I can see it now

a purposed SUN LIGHT OR MOON LIGHT Tax.?
Since the Sun and the Moon produce UNTAXED Energy.

Fred Russel has already dared to tax GOD, with his Rain tax, whats to
stop him now?

dichotomy
37683
Points
dichotomy 11/19/13 - 11:17 pm
17
1
Every time they talk about

Every time they talk about taxes and fees they always say things like "a dollar a week", and "it's only a penny"(on EVERY dollar).

Do they EVER stop and add up LOST, SPLOST, SPLOST II, TSPLOST, Garbage FEE, proposed RAIN TAX, ON TOP OF our PROPERTY TAXES and SCHOOL TAXES. Maybe it's only a dollar or two a week to you and a "penny on every dollar"....but it translates to a lot of money on property owners on a fixed income.

It must be very easy to sit on your big duff downtown and shrug your shoulders and say, '"take some more money from the little people". ALL WHILE APPROVING USELESS $1/2 million dollar "studies" and "consulting contracts" FOR PROJECTS THAT WE DON'T NEED IN THE FIRST PLACE. CUT THE STUDIES, CUT THE CONSULTANTS, AND STOP INVENTING NEW WAYS TO WASTE MONEY ON PROJECTS WE CANNOT AFFORD.

You want to balance the budget..........QUIT YOUR DAMNED SPENDING EXCEPT FOR BASIC SERVICES.

bubbasauce
24322
Points
bubbasauce 11/20/13 - 12:03 am
11
0
Dichotomy for Mayor! Better

Dichotomy for Mayor! Better yet, replace Russell at once. Has he got one half an ounce of intelligence? I don't think so. Such a waste this man is. Read our lips Mr. Russell, start doing your job and cut all this wasteful spending of our tax dollars! People are getting really tired of all this crap!

bumblebeerose
694
Points
bumblebeerose 11/20/13 - 03:08 am
12
0
CAN WE THE PEOPLE OF RICHMOND COUNTY

Can we just FIRE FRED RUSSELL?!!!! He is of no good to Richmond County!!

Everyone that lives is Richmond County should pay to live in the county. This is not something that should just be left up to Property Owners. Non Property owners use the same services that Property Owners do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

seenitB4
98849
Points
seenitB4 11/20/13 - 06:30 am
7
0
Bad boys

Someone has to pay for the bad boys & their decisions...the very things we have talked about on here ALL YEAR......we saw this coming...a study here & a study there....it ain't free..

seenitB4
98849
Points
seenitB4 11/20/13 - 06:31 am
5
0
haah

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle grew hot behind the dais

Is there near the collar bone??

GnipGnop
12765
Points
GnipGnop 11/20/13 - 07:04 am
11
0
I didn't get the memo as a property owner

where Lockett asked me if I minded....Let me get this worded right so there will be no misunderstanding...NOT ONE MORE PENNY FROM ME!!!!!!!!! Take the half of the trash tax you are ripping me off for and use that!!!! Remember who is for this property tax increase when elections come....Alvin Mason...you elect him Mayor and you get exactly what you deserve...more spending and more burden on the taxpayers!!!!

rebellious
22091
Points
rebellious 11/20/13 - 07:23 am
11
0
More is Less

If you want less of something, tax it more! It has been proven time and time again. And while the millage rate may not have been raised since 2007, how many property owners received higher valuations to catch up with the Real Estate bubble? And when the bubble popped, there has been no downward movement in valuation to reflect current market prices. I have a vacant 1.5 acre lot whose valuation went from $1,500 to $12,000 in one year. So Fred, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

seenitB4
98849
Points
seenitB4 11/20/13 - 07:39 am
5
0
Nice to see rebel this am

and I agree withya..

If you want less of something, tax it more!

nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/20/13 - 09:00 am
6
0
Rebellious - If ARC was forced to

reevaluate Property Value to their true levels an when you consider just over 49% of all housing in AUGUSTA/RICHMOND County was build prior to 1980.

http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Augusta-Georgia/community-info/

Built 1939 or earlier 7.60%
Built 1940 to 1949 6.44%
Built 1950 to 1959 14.08%
Built 1960 to 1969 16.72%
Built 1970 to 1979 20.82%

Fred Russell would need to be asking for double Digit $Million in Tax increases. Scary isn't it, but it explains part of the reason for the inflated property values.

BTW:
The data also shows ARC was beating GA averages for New Housing growth all the way up to 1979.

Then ARC fell behind the GA Averages for Newly Built Housing for
each period after 1980 - to present by 1/2 or more.

What happen politically and/or Economically around 1980
in ARC?

nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/20/13 - 09:09 am
5
0
BTW: I pulled the same data for Martinez & Columbia Co.

Starting 1980 both Martinez & Columbia Co. GREW, as ARC declined in New Housing Starts.

Both Martinez & Columbia Co. Have OVER 62% NEW Housing since 1980.

-------------------------------------

Martinez, Columbia Co., GA.
Built 1980 to 1989 42.26% 30.70% 21.98%
Built 1990 to 1994 13.18% 17.06% 11.30%
Built 1995 to 1998 7.15% 14.82% 12.60%
Built 1999 to 2000 1.60% 5.35% 3.98%

seenitB4
98849
Points
seenitB4 11/20/13 - 09:09 am
6
0
Well now nocnoc

What happen politically and/or Economically around 1980
in ARC?

I lived there at that time....& what happened is daddie giverment decided they knew what was best for our students....they thought that the flock would stay put & not complain.....they were wrong.
Many left to find schools they could support & also stay in a safe area of town..GEEZ, imagine that!!
So....thank daddie gov for the exodus.

JRC2024
10613
Points
JRC2024 11/20/13 - 09:32 am
3
0
Bumblebee, The people that

Bumblebee, The people that own the houses that the people rent pay taxes because a pro-rata share is included in the rent they charge. Don't know about section 8. But you can bet the tax would be more if the renters owned homes. How would you suggest doing it? A tax for a house hold or a per person tax. I would say a per person tax on all who live in the house but how would you collect it. You cannot put a person in jail for debts and if you could the jails would be over capacity. It would be hard. Richmond County has a big hill to climb because of the population shift and the influx of people with lower incomes that want the same services as the ones with higher incomes. It becomes a hard thing to manage. I think I would cut out all the dole outs to all that do not do a government service. That would help but then the fussing would come.

dichotomy
37683
Points
dichotomy 11/20/13 - 09:42 am
6
0
I heard Russell saying he did

I heard Russell saying he did not think the citizens wanted him to have to cut services in order to balance the budget. Well he's right....we want him for fully fund SERVICES. What we want him to cut is all of the other grandiose crap that SOMEBODY downtown wants US to pay for. We want him to put Paul and "associates" back into the PRIVATE sector and take them off of the taxpayer's subsidy payroll. We want him and the commissioners to quit passing out $1/2 million dollar "study" and "consultant" contracts like jelly beans. We want him to cut funding for those mysterious organizations and entities that we have apparently been funding but "do not have to fund". If we do not need Marshalls at the Marble Palace, cut the funding. About the only threat I see to county employees is a tar and feathering at a commission meeting by District 8 residents.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 11/20/13 - 10:01 am
4
0
They need to wise up and do
Unpublished

They need to wise up and do what Aiken County did a few years ago when the voters turned down a property tax rate increase. They revalued the property and raised most people taxes. Mine went up 20%. They are all a bunch of crooks.

Little Lamb
49365
Points
Little Lamb 11/20/13 - 10:03 am
5
0
Look At This

One of the items Russell proposed was this:

• Mothballing the old Joint Law Enforcement Center, to save $350,000

When it was proposed and later approved to build a new LEC for the sheriff, the justification was that the old LEC (401 Walton Way) was so mold-infested that it was making the employees sick and the mold could not be eliminated. So the deal was to build the new LEC on the old LEC parking lot, then demolish the old LEC once the new one was created, then turn 401 Walton Way into parking lot for new LEC.

Now, we learn that Fred wants to "mothball" the building. It still costs more to hold on to deteriorating property than to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot.

This government seldom delivers what was promised to the citizens.

Little Lamb
49365
Points
Little Lamb 11/20/13 - 10:14 am
5
0
Raze It

Here's part of the Chronicle> story from 2/16/10:

The Augusta Commission voted 6-4, with Commissioners Don Grantham, J.R. Hatney, Bill Lockett and Jimmy Smith dissenting, to build on what now is a parking lot for the existing jail and administration building at 401 Walton Way. That building, rife with leaks and mold, will be razed and the inmates transferred to the Charlie B. Webster Detention Center on Phinizy Road.

Here is the link:

Razed

Once the building becomes "mothballed" it is out of sight, out of mind (Fred's "What, me worry?" management style at work again). The roof will start leaking, vagrants will find a way inside (right under the noses of the sheriff headquarters), people will steal the copper wiring and piping, etc. That's the way Fred manages surplus property.

aintryt
189
Points
aintryt 11/20/13 - 10:31 am
5
0
Man with sense.....

I just LOVE Wayne Guilfoyle and think he is a WONDERFUL commissioner!

prov227
3468
Points
prov227 11/20/13 - 10:48 am
4
0
Why do governments think this way?

From the article ... "Moreover, continued Russell, Augusta’s 8.042-mill tax rate is lower than similar countywide rates in Fulton, Bulloch, Chatham, Dougherty, Bibb, Clarke and Muscogee, the home counties of Georgia’s largest cities."

"Muscogee, in fact is “double ours,” said Russell, of the Columbus-Muscogee consolidated government, recently reported to be approaching Augusta-Richmond’s claim to have second-largest population in Georgia."

A reverse argument would be "isn't it grand that Augusta/RC is such a better steward of its citizens tax dollar". Rather the inference is "we covet what other cities have done to obtain more from its citizens, so we should be allowed to do the same".

Isn't the important question, "is the taxing purposes of the "leading" taxing cities appropriate?" Or is A/RC just following the herd? What logic. A false argument for raising taxes from a "professional" manager.

itsanotherday1
48437
Points
itsanotherday1 11/20/13 - 10:57 am
4
0
Dittos prov

Don't you just love those who justify their proposals by pointing to others?

I belong to a recreational club where some do just that; try to raise dues for pet projects just because we pay less than other similar clubs.

That is akin to "well, back in _____, we did it this way..." Guess what pal, you are here now, where we do things our way.

old doper
49
Points
old doper 11/20/13 - 11:01 am
1
1
0 % chance

So, Comm. Smith is now a prophet. He predicts there is a zero % chance a criminal will enter the Municipal Bldg. therefore no security is needed. I'm sure the Council meeting in Pennsylvania where a gunman walked in and shot and killed multiple people thought it couldnt happen there. Or Sandy Hook, or Aurora Colorado, DC shipyard, Mall of America, LAX......the list of mass shootings in public places grows every week. The anger towards government employee's is at an all time high. Why do police now have specialized training for active shooters? Because it has become an epidemic. Yet a GSP trooper believes he can predict the future and declare that such an event will never happen in lil ol Augusta. A ZERO % chance. His exact words. What's next, stock tips? What an embarressment......

thauch12
7076
Points
thauch12 11/20/13 - 11:35 am
4
0
In the words of the elder...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP9_kkzfN-w

...except I hope we can actually follow through with that

nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/20/13 - 11:55 am
4
0
A growing majority

of us think Wayne Guilfoyle is the best District 8 focused Commissioner yet!

The problem he is up against 6 1/2 other districts that have more interest in DOWNTOWN than the South Side. Not counting the Super districts used to water down the power and say of the old county areas.

It is time to redraw the District Lines to reflect the population changes.
More people live outside the OLD city than ever, yet the South Side district lines are currently drawn to OVERLAP old city areas.

Race is no longer an district line issue because we are 60/40 now, not 40/60. So changes are needed.

I am willing to bet race will play no role when it comes to a taxpayer stopping tax increases and slowing the $$$ funnel to downtown, and increasing the return back into the Districts?

corgimom
38832
Points
corgimom 11/20/13 - 12:21 pm
2
2
nocnoc, it was the Augusta

nocnoc, it was the Augusta riot and integration of the schools in the 1970's, along with shutting down the mills. That's what happened.

nocnoc
49817
Points
nocnoc 11/20/13 - 08:11 pm
1
0
corgimom - you make a good point

A valid contributing point.

But also in the 1980+ political period,
what happen to put downtown, the city of Augusta,
on the road to Bankruptcy?

Who bailed out the City of Augusta and has been keeping it on Life support and a spending spree for some 16+ years?

Any takers?

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