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Augusta Commission talks budget at Tuesday meeting

Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 10:13 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 12:10 AM
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Augusta Commission members will again attempt to agree on how to balance next year’s budget, with or without tax increases, staff raises and other adjustments at a Tuesday meeting.

Last week, a handful of commissioners – though not a majority of six – spoke of the need to raise the property tax millage rate, impose an excise tax on manufacturers and dip into the city’s savings to fill a $7.9 million shortfall.

Raising property taxes – City Administrator Fred Russell said a 1-mill increase would generate some $4 million – remains a viable option, although the commission doesn’t set the mill rate until August.

“I think we’re going to have to raise taxes,” said Commissioner Marion Williams, adding that significant cuts must follow to avoid a repeat situation next year. “Once we do that, we can’t do the same thing moving forward.”

Russell said a majority on the commission also support his recommendation that Augusta impose a 2 percent excise tax on the energy that manufacturers use to replace part of the revenue lost to a new state sales tax exemption, and imposing department-level 2.4 percent
cuts.

The mill-rate hike, meanwhile, could be deferred until the summer. “If things go well, we wouldn’t have to,” Russell said.

A couple of commissioners, however, said they felt their ideas for reining in city spending are being ignored.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he was still looking for data on the growth of city department budgets – such as Recreation, which appeared to grow by $2 million in two years – and wanted the commission to “take our time, go through the budget and recognize where the money’s been spent.”

Without serious “preventative measures,” Guilfoyle said if the city continues to dip into savings “we’re going to be bankrupt in 11 years.”

The city has about $27 million in its “rainy-day fund,” from which Russell is proposing taking $4 million or more.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, who supports levying the excise tax, said the growth – and addition – of city departments ought to be closely examined for “what we are getting” out of them.

“The problem with the budget is that we’ve seen no meaningful cuts and we’re not inclined to go four million-and-a-half into the reserve fund,” Smith said.

ALSO ON TUESDAY

In addition to a budget session scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the commission chamber, the body also has a public hearing set for 1:30 p.m. on creating a new Tax Allocation District 4 downtown.

The TAD will be formed using downtown parcels previously included in the city’s TAD 1, a large district spanning much of the city that hasn’t created any incremental TAD tax benefits used to spur new development.

City Administrator Fred Russell said TAD 1 was “a learning experience” largely orchestrated by former City Attorney Chiquita Johnson.

If approved, the new TAD will divert property tax revenue generated within the district above 2013 levels into development projects, such as the Holiday Inn Express being renovated in the 400 block of Broad Street.

Comments (11) Add comment
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bubbasauce
24271
Points
bubbasauce 12/02/13 - 11:45 pm
2
0
Is it fair to say Augusta,

Is it fair to say Augusta, GA. = Washington, D.C.? Yes I believe it is! Seems as if several commissioners and Russell believe the easiest way to solve the problem is to raise our taxes continually and never, ever cut anything. That means they actually have to use their pea brains to sit down and actually process information in their little ole heads. Very sad most of these commissioners are. God help Augusta, GA.!

wildman
1225
Points
wildman 12/03/13 - 04:42 am
1
0
Lockett

Stop him and others from taking so many useless trips. A good start anyway.

bubbasauce
24271
Points
bubbasauce 12/03/13 - 04:53 am
4
0
By the way keep up the good

By the way keep up the good work Wayne Guilfoyle! Glad to know someone has a conscious.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 12/03/13 - 06:34 am
3
0
Keep Excise Tax Revenue in South Augusta

"City Administrator Fred Russell said TAD 1 was “a learning experience” largely orchestrated by former City Attorney Chiquita Johnson."

Heh, heh. It was that bad, Fred? But since we are talking about increasing taxes for a specific area with the funds to be used in that area, the excise tax raised on South Augusta industries should be kept in that area, too. South Augusta residents are the ones living with the heavy industry.

seenitB4
98561
Points
seenitB4 12/03/13 - 07:00 am
2
0
and paying a price for that too

"South Augusta residents are the ones living with the heavy industry."

The smog--the smell-fallout on the trees & cars....yes sir, they do pay a price...
Thank goodness you have Wayne on the commish....

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 12/03/13 - 07:55 am
0
0
TAD

Take a look at this from the sidebar:

The [proposed new TAD 4] will be formed using downtown parcels previously included in the city’s TAD 1, a large district spanning much of the city that hasn’t created any incremental TAD tax benefits used to spur new development.

If the old TAD did not create any incremental benefits, what makes Russell think that simply repeating it will make things different? These TADs are scams and sleights of hand. Taxpayers, beware!

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 12/03/13 - 07:58 am
1
0
TAD, Again

Again from the sidebar:

If approved, the new TAD will divert property tax revenue generated within the district above 2013 levels into development projects, such as the Holiday Inn Express being renovated in the 400 block of Broad Street.

Excuse me, but the Holiday Inn corporation has already started the renovation and is almost complete. Holiday Inn corporation has deeper pockets than does the city of Augusta. They don't need any government kickbacks.

Commissioners, vote NO! on the TAD!

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/03/13 - 09:32 am
0
0
Vote NO on TAD

LESS spending, NOT MORE TAXES!

GnipGnop
12746
Points
GnipGnop 12/03/13 - 12:10 pm
0
0
Sadly though

Wayne is only one guy representing half the population of Augusta...I applaud him but we do not have a fair representation for ALL of South Augusta. South Augusta will continue to be the red headed stepchild. They will continue getting table scraps while the King and his merry court feast at the table...

Sweet son
11762
Points
Sweet son 12/03/13 - 12:39 pm
0
0
Comments are right! Guilfoyle is the only commissioner with

his head screwed to his shoulders. The rest seem to have their heads somewhere else! Fred and company will continue to exceed income and put Augusta in the same situation as other large cities. They will tax and spend us right into the bankruptcy situation. If costs in our household are greater than income the we have to cut something or get another job. I guess Fred and the comish will just get their other job by taxing us to death.

dichotomy
37619
Points
dichotomy 12/03/13 - 01:19 pm
1
0
“I think we’re going to have

“I think we’re going to have to raise taxes,” said Commissioner Marion Williams, adding that significant cuts must follow'

Oh yeh Marion.......raise taxes now and look at cutting spending next year.......WE HAVE HEARD THAT BEFORE. Just what spending have you ever voted to cut in your 3 terms on the commission? How many times have you voted to increase taxes and fees?

And let's not forget folks....it's not just the property taxes......they've still got another $84.50, or more, a year on the table in the form of residential garbage fee increases, street sweeping fees, and the RAIN TAX.

None of them has a plan except for Wayne Guilfoyle. All the rest of them are just throwing taxes and fees up in the air to see what sticks. None of them except Guilfoyle have the brains, or do not want to be bothered, with digging through the budget to see where our money goes and what could be cut. They would actually have to do a little stubby pencil work and apply some basic mathematics and that's just too much trouble when your main concerns are your next campaign contribution and your skybox tickets....or in Marion's case, how to sell the city some more property at 10 times it's value. They've got to make sure there is plenty of cash on hand for them to loot or pass out in contracts to keep the kickbacks rolling in.

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