Augusta tax rate lower than others, but bills vary

Property taxes in consolidated Augusta-Richmond County appear among the state’s lowest, with a countywide maintenance and operations levy of just 8.042 mills, lower than nearly any populous Georgia county save for neighboring Columbia.

For a homebuyer making an informed decision, however, the reality of Richmond County property taxes is a lot more complicated, with rates that vary by address and bills enlarged substantially by Richmond County Board of Education, which has set a millage of 19.982 for school operations.

Augusta City Admin­istrator Fred Russell asked commission members to make the comparison last week, when he pitched the idea of a small tax increase to fill a 2014 budget shortfall.

The millage is the amount levied against each $1,000 of a property’s taxable value, which in Georgia is 40 percent of a property’s fair market value.

No Augusta taxpayer pays only 8.042 mills. Add the school board millage, a 0.781 county capital outlay millage and a 0.15 statewide millage to get 28.955 mills, the lowest rate any property owner will pay unless disabled, over 65, and exempt from school taxes or eligible for other discounts.

On a primary residence valued at $100,000, that’s a $1,013 tax bill.

Outside the pre-consolidation Augusta city limits, add a 2.14-mill charge for fire protection – except in Hephzibah, which has a small fire department. Inside the old city limits it becomes even more complicated, as property owners are billed a separate Urban Services District mill rate – 17.775 mills – which is then discounted by a 9.788 “urban sales tax credit.” The credit and a countywide sales tax credit of 5.983 mills are funded by Augusta’s local option sales tax.

Despite the consolidation of the city and county governments in 1996, property owners in the old city limits pay a higher total millage rate – 36.942 mills, plus an extra $115.50 to fund part of their garbage service – versus owners outside the old boundaries, who pay 31.095 mills plus $310.50 for garbage.

Still, either rate places Augusta below Savannah, Macon, Albany and Atlanta, where homeowners pay from 38.2 mills, in Savannah, to 54 mills or more, in the Atlanta portion of Dekalb County.

Taxed at lower rates are homeowners in neighboring unincorporated Columbia County, where school taxes of 18.59 mills and county taxes of 8.38 mills add up to 26.97 mills. Grovetown adds an additional 7 mills, so a Grovetown homeowner could pay a higher tax rate than one in Hephzibah.

Among the state’s consolidated governments, Athens-Clarke pays 33.7 mills, thanks to a 20-mill school levy. Columbus-Muscogee, about the same size as Augusta-Richmond, pays 40.3 mills, a point Russell raised on Tuesday.

When it consolidates in January, new Macon-Bibb officials will eliminate the city (9.7 mills) and county (12.03 mills) rates and replace them with a new countywide rate, likely somewhere in between, according to city spokesman Chris Floore.

Commissioners remain divided on the issue with several – Wayne Guilfoyle, Donnie Smith, Joe Jackson – opposed to any property tax increase and others – Corey Johnson, Bill Lockett, Bill Fennoy – who have said it’s the only way to perform the services residents demand.

The commission will revisit the issue at a 3 p.m. work session today.

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AUGUSTA-RICHMOND COUNTY MILLAGE

 

Capital Outlay0.781 mills
Richmond County Schools19.982 mills
Urban District16.029 mills
Urban District total36.942 mills
Suburban District10.182 mills
Suburban District total31.095 mills
TAX RATES (IN MILLS)

 

Macon 9.7

Bibb County 12.03

Bibb County Schools 17.945

Total 39.675

 

Statesboro 6.358

Bulloch County 10.44

Bulloch County Schools 9.95

Total 26.748

 

Savannah 12.5

Chatham County 11.09

Chatham County Schools 14.631

Total 38.221

 

Athens-Clarke 13.7

Clarke County Schools 20

Total 33.7

 

Cobb County 7.72

Cobb County Schools 18.9

Total 29.487

 

Columbia County 6.402

County bond 0.154

County fire 2.081

Columbia County Schools 18.59

Total 26.97


DeKalb County 18.79

DeKalb County Schools 23.98

Atlanta city limits 11.964

Total 54.734

 

Albany 9.99

Dougherty County 11.894

Dougherty County Schools 18.445

Total 40.329

 

Brunswick 12.719

Glynn County 5.673

Glynn County Schools 15.23

Total 33.622

 

Columbus-Muscogee 16.93

Muscogee County Schools 23.37

Total 40.3

 

Aiken County * 69.9 mills

Aiken County schools 170.6 mills

 

* In South Carolina, properties are taxed at 10 percent of fair market value or less

 

Source: Georgia Department of Revenue; county government publications

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