A proposed sales tax project list city leaders hope to include in a May 20 ballot referendum leaves much work to be done.
City department heads and other agencies held little back in their wish lists to the city finance department, according to a compilation of their requests distributed to commissioners Thursday and obtained Friday by The Augusta Chronicle.
The requests total about $721.7 million. They include $370 million sought by the engineering department for roads and drainage projects, $106 million requested by the recreation department for upgrades to its facilities, and $64 million sought by outside agencies, such as the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project founded by Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
While Augusta Commission members have until March 21 to vet the list, Copenhaver revealed last week that the tax referendum must include an $8 million match for Georgia Regents University to break ground on a cancer research center. He said the sales tax package must be passed in May to borrow $8 million against the future tax collections to get the matching funds in the bank by a June state deadline.
Some commissioners think they can get the list whittled down in the next six weeks, in time to make the May ballot, while others including Commissioner Bill Lockett have said the process is moving entirely too fast.
“Obviously, we are not going to do that,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said of the entire slate of projects.
When Augusta voters were presented a sales tax package valued at $476 million in 2004, they rejected it, but they approved a scaled-down version with $160 million in projects a year later.
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he hoped city staff will help the commission produce a package that doesn’t overlook south Richmond County.
“I would like to see it done in May, if we can get it done right,” he said.
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