Government SPLOST 7 | | | Editor

Augusta tax rate lower than others, but bills vary

Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013 12:03 AM
Last updated Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 1:39 AM
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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.

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

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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dickworth1 11/25/13 - 04:48 am
What's your point!

Am I suppose to care what other communities pay in taxes? I live in Augusta, not Savannah, Macon, Columbus, or even Columbia county!
To compare cities, you have to compare government services, the condition of the streets, the sewage and water dept., the things to do, such as, six flags, the beaches, the proximity of Fla.beaches from Columbus, NFL football, college football, MLB. How long does it take these other communities to get a pothole fixed and fixed right? Do these other communities want to charge fees for something the city should be doing as part of the taxes you pay, such as, sweeping our curb, which by the way, most people keep their curb clean as part of their yard maintenance. Do these other communities spend tax money on commissioners going to distant states for "government" meetings? You must compare apples to apples. Let's compare our incompetent commissioners and administrator to other cities. You see, no matter how you say it, it is a tax increase so our government can spend the monies on their pet projects. We built a judicial center because the old judicial location was just not good enough, now we decide to spend millions on the old building. My house is just not good enough for my liking, how bout remodeling my house? Fred, a tax is a tax.

nocnoc 11/25/13 - 08:03 am
The Tax process in ARC.

1.) We are a Consolidated Government, yet ARC Taxes, builds,reinvests and maintains areas disproportionately to the amount collected. Many in the NON-Downtown areas constantly wonder are we really Consolidated or just being used as a additional Downtown TAX revenue stream?

2.) There continues to be this underlying push to TAX like other GA areas our size. Has anyone stopped and considered that we are not like those other areas? That we are almost, if not more than 50% Rural/Farm/Forest lands.

3.) ARC is NOT like Atlanta, Columbus, or Savannah in way too
many regards, (people, land, business and etc.) So it is silly to
buy into the Downtown self-serving pushed notion, that we should
increase taxes to be like others counties that are NOT
fundamentally like ARC in too many ways.

4.) ARC continues to treat the Outlaying areas Separate but NOT
equal. A quick look by any amateur Bean Counter will quickly
tell that DOWNTOWN is a MONEY PIT sucking up $$$MILLIONS$$$ in
constant improvement projects, Political pay back consulting gigs
and general hair brain ideas and waste. The percentage of Taxes
collected in each district vs. how much is siphoned off for the
CBD & Downtown area "projects" is just short of Criminal for now.
An increasing number of outer area taxpayers feel, if a district
only gets 50% of its Tax Revenue reinvested in its district it
would be a 100% improvement. Because, the growing general
perception is less than 25% of what collected is actually
reinvested in some districts to maintain and repair things.

Face it ARC is not even a real Consolidated Government, and neither are its TAXES.

The County never should have joined Augusta in a massive vote. It should have been a section by section expansion vote type as Augusta grew. But the problem with that was, Augusta was already surrounded by years of pushing its poor to the outskirts of the city limits. So expanding normally would not have gained the city the needed TAX Stream to survive it needed it all.

Having worked around a few local politicians and fat cats in the 1970-80's I heard them refer to Augusta's 2 main problems as:
The Malls killing downtown business and shopping, and the historical Poor Economic Circle surrounding the City.

As we now know Augusta was going broke in the 70's and was BROKE in 1990's. A fact hid from the County Voters, many of whom today would likely vote to DECONSOLIDATE themselves from this all too focused DOWNTOWN business and political mess.

Doubt that last comment, then put it to a Outer District by Outer District Vote.

jimmymac 11/25/13 - 08:49 am

It looks like your elected officials are setting taxpayers up for an increase so they can waste more money in the blighted area's of Augusta. They continue to throw away money for studies and groups trying to make silk out of a sows ear. It's time for taxpayers to clean house but unfortunately there are far too many tax freeloaders living on the dole.

nocnoc 11/25/13 - 09:32 am
dichotomy - Speaking of services

Did ARC Water Works ever fix that Chlorine Gas Leak Alert Alarm so it can be heard it at nearby houses less than a 100 yards away?

Did they ever wire the alarm into Downtown or the Fire Dept for emergency response?

countyman 11/25/13 - 11:12 am

Comparing Richmond versus Muscogee(Columbus) and Chatham(Savannah) are two of the best choices...

Augusta and Savannah are the only two counties in Georgia outside of metro Atlanta with over 200,000 in the main county. Muscogee County is consolidated with the entire city of Columbus...

GnipGnop 11/25/13 - 01:48 pm
I don't care what the population of any other county is....

I could care less what they do.....raising taxes on overtaxed south Augusta property owners because you can't live under a budget and can't seem to find a consultant that you won't give money to for nothing more than a few comments is asinine and should be criminal. Russell should be fired and the consolidated government should be disbanded or have greater county representation....this whole city is a joke. Cut out the mayors job...I mean other than show up for ribbon cuttings and the ironman race what the heck does he do? Total waste of money just like anything this inept commission puts their hands on...I feel sorry for Wayne...he has to sit in a den of thieves and try not to let their bad deeds rub off on him....pathetic...

TrulyWorried 11/25/13 - 04:11 pm

I don't recall "demanding" anything (one example - trash pick up, I was doing fine for 40 years with my regular and less expensive garbage man) I was very happy - now I get to pay for things I don't need nor want. I wish those responsible would find ways to reduce THEIR spending and the thefts that have occured and will occur should not happen at all.

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