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Augusta Commission set to approve $9 million tax increase

Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:44 PM
Last updated Monday, July 28, 2014 1:42 AM
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Augusta Commission members are set to tentatively pass a $9 million property tax increase at a called meeting today.

The 2-mill increase, effectively $70 more annually for the owner of a $100,000 house who claims the standard homestead exemption, would be the largest Richmond County has seen in a decade. The last time the local government raised the mill rate by more than a quarter percent was in 2006, when a 1-mill hike went to law enforcement.

Some commissioners see the increase as unavoidable, with city departments already cut to the bone and the city’s reserves down this year more than $5 million, mostly to balance the year’s budget.

“We are in a tough position right now, because I don’t want to go into reserves to make up that deficit,” Commissioner Mary Davis said. “The hard thing is, nobody wants to raise taxes, but nobody wants to see a decrease in services.”

Finance Director Donna Williams and Interim Administrator Tameka Allen discussed their recommendation for the increase at length during the commission’s June 27 retreat. Included in the proposal are $1,000 pay increases for all employees and reducing budgeted departmental cuts for the year from 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent.

The increase will raise the millage rate to just over 10 mills, which is higher than Columbia County’s 6.4 mills but still lower than current countywide rates in Fulton, Bulloch, Chatham, Dougherty, Macon-Bibb, Athens-Clarke and Columbus-Muscogee.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said the city needed not only a 2-mill rate hike but the addition of an excise tax on manufacturers for energy to replace funds lost to a new statewide exemption. Both items, with the excise tax designated for law enforcement, blight and transit, were approved as “action items” at the retreat.

The exemption, included in legislation authored in part by mayor-elect Sen. Hardie Davis, will reduce Augusta’s revenue by $4 million annually when fully implemented in 2016. The city was using the funds to offset property taxes.

“We’re about $8 million down,” Lockett said. “With the 2-mill increase and the excise tax it will put us in a pretty good position.”

Also on the table for property owners is a stormwater fee under development by the city’s Engineering Department. The fee, typically a few dollars a month, is charged based on the square footage of impermeable surface such as driveways and rooftops, but it hasn’t come before the commission yet for approval.

While nearly $5 million from the millage increase would likely go toward paying down the year’s deficit, taxpayers will get to see something tangible from the tax hike, Lockett said.

“It’s a negative impact on property owners in a sense, but by virtue of cleaning up the city, getting rid of the overgrown lots and so forth, property values will most certainly go up,” he said.

While the increase is inevitable, taxpayers clamoring for another solution – such as streamlining city departments to cut costs – may get some relief from an upcoming audit of the city’s Recreation, Parks and Facilities department.

“There will be some consolidation of personnel, some changes made,” Lockett said.

Commissioner Grady Smith said departmental waste ought to be reduced instead of property taxes raised, particularly on the numerous factories and large commercial taxpayers.

“We’ve got to be business friendly, to make sure we’ve got jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

Should commissioners opt to increase the mill rate, they’re required to advertise the increase and hold several public hearings to meet state deadlines for property tax bills to go out in late August or early September.

IN OTHER ACTION

The tax discussion is the first item at a noon called commission meeting and closed-door legal meeting preceding today’s committee meetings. Up for discussion at the committee meeting agendas are:

• Proposed naming schemes for the numerous conference and training rooms included in ongoing renovations of Augusta Municipal Building.

• A $2.75 quarterly fee for Virginia College students to use Augusta Public Transit

• Authorizing the law department to negotiate a revision of Augusta’s contract with Automated Data Processing to exclude automated health and wellness benefits services, to be replaced by three city benefits specialist positions

• Reassigning road naming and addressing from Planning and Development to Information Technology

• A beautification project for Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road around Fort Gordon

• Continued funding for on-call tree removal and maintenance using $700,000 in Transportation Investment Act discretionary funds

• A presentation on progress made on redevelopment at Regency Mall

• A contract with Imperial Theatre for spending special purpose, local option sales tax 6 funds

• A presentation from IFS Securities on minority inclusion in Augusta Utilities’ upcoming bond refinancing

• A salary adjustment and retention program for Augusta Fire Department

Comments (55) Add comment
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geecheeriverman
3588
Points
geecheeriverman 07/28/14 - 03:50 am
10
0
boiling a frog

Only $70.00 more a year on a $100,000 home. Kind of like boiling a frog, turn up the heat gradually and he won't notice that he is fixing to get cooked, then it is to late.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 04:03 am
13
1
Just wondering if the Tax increase would have been needed IF

the Marble Palace DOWNTOWN had been sold, instead of remodeled beyond its original cost?

the pretty much unused Convention center had not been built DOWNTOWN.

the NEW largely unused parking deck DOWNTOWN had not been built.

these plus other Political and Power Broker / Private Owner rewarded Projects or $$$ dumps.

But either way the COUNTY RESIDENTS will largely foot the bill for the DOWNTOWN once again. Especially since DOWNTOWN did not get their $194 Million S7, with just about the same amount slush fund $$$$ that this Tax Increase will steal mainly from COUNTY HOME OWNERS RESIDENTS.

SOMETHING STINKS IN AUGUSTA,
besides the once a week over priced garbage pickup sham.

JUST WONDERING ...
how many see this as revenge for not passing the S7?

why there has not been a uprising to Deconsolidate yet before DOWNTOWN dumps anything else on the County?

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 04:12 am
13
1
BTW:

The $100K and up price tag largely means the TAX INCREASE
is on Middle class Homeowner/working families.

ALSO JUST WONDERING
if all the wasted project $$$$ could have covered the long overdue pay raises.

the $$$$ wasted on Lawsuits and rebuttals could have covered the long overdue pay raises.

the purposed high technology upgrades of the RCSO, P&D & IT could have covered the long overdue pay raises.

Just Wondering ...

Riverman1
90088
Points
Riverman1 07/28/14 - 04:21 am
10
1
A Few Things Caught My Eye

Naming the rooms in the Municipal Bldg. should be interesting. Heh. Along with that goes including minorities in bond financing. That requires a huh? And while we’re on the subject of minorities, who are the minorities in the county? It appears to me, it’s the whites.

Lastly creating three new positions for “benefit specialists” by taking the contract work from ADP appears to be a matter of giving some well connected people high paying jobs. I’d wager it will cost more and the quality of the work won’t be on a par with ADP.

Graymare
3582
Points
Graymare 07/28/14 - 05:15 am
14
0
House for sale.

Taxes keep going up but the property value keep going down. Someone downtown needs to pull their head out and look around. Seriously, these increases are killing us older folks who are not wealthy. And, it would be nice if the taxes could be paid monthly. Anyway, my home is up for sale. It's past time for leaving. I've lived here for twenty years and the county keeps going further down, down, down. Seems like the commissioners do not care if they screw things up. They'll just saddle the taxpayers with their mess.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 05:17 am
5
1
My Suggestion instead of a Tax forever increase

Why not Nationally advertise for bids
(Golf Digest and other applicable sources)

Augusta - Richmond County will accept bids for the purchase of the Land & improvements, for the Augusta Municipal Golf Course called THE PATCH.

avidreader
3442
Points
avidreader 07/28/14 - 05:16 am
11
0
House Payment!

"The 2-mill increase, effectively $70 more annually for the owner of a $100,000 house . . ."

Many people will not see this as too large a tax increase -- especially those who do not pay property taxes -- but my house payment will increase once again. And yes, nocnoc, this is a result of the S7 not passing in May. This is why I voted for SPLOST (not happy about it, but I voted for it). Now the property owners are shelling out the funds instead of the entire population.

maandpa
458
Points
maandpa 07/28/14 - 06:02 am
8
0
Easy Fix

Increasing property taxes is an easy fix to a problem--just put the burden on the people who are supporting the county.

corgimom
36405
Points
corgimom 07/28/14 - 06:42 am
0
13
A $70 increase is less than

A $70 increase is less than $6 per month. So skip a trip to McDonald's.

flipa1
2686
Points
flipa1 07/28/14 - 07:06 am
8
0
If all this was going to Law

If all this was going to Law Enforcement it would help solve RC's main problem which is crime but it won't... It doesn't matter how much we spend it will only result in giving crooks more to steal...

Little Lamb
47848
Points
Little Lamb 07/28/14 - 07:15 am
5
1
Business Killer

The tax increase shills always talk about the increase on a $100,000 primary residence (with its homestead exemption figured in). They don't talk about how the tax will hit business property owners. They don't get homestead exemption. They get hit harder.

Then on top of that you've got Bill Lockett trying to hit business owners with the energy excise tax on top of the property tax.

Next is the stormwater fee on top of the excise tax.

Owners of business property (whether large like PCS Nitrogen, Proctor & Gamble, International Paper, Solvay, etc.) or small (like mom & pop stores, strip malls, downtown restaurants, etc.) you will begin to see businesses close up shop as a result of these tax and fee increases.

dsterling9
1165
Points
dsterling9 07/28/14 - 07:44 am
4
0
avidreader

You can blame the failure of S7 on the Commission and Mayor. The addition of too many illegal giveaways caused the failure. I did not vote for S7 and will not vote for the next one if filled with crap!

Little Lamb
47848
Points
Little Lamb 07/28/14 - 07:48 am
4
0
On the committee agenda:

• Reassigning road naming and addressing from Planning and Development to Information Technology

Hey, if you're going to reassign road names, may I make a request? Please consolidate our road names. For example, take a look in West Augusta. We have a single road beginning at Davis Rd. & Washington. Davis Rd. then changes name to become Walton Way Extension, then it becomes Jackson, then North Leg, then Old McDuffie Rd. where it dead ends just east of Bobby Jones Expressway. Those five names should be consolidated into one. I would suggest calling the entire stretch West End (because it does indeed dead end near Lumpkin Road).

Another candidate would be the stretch from Washington Road near the golf course. It starts out at Berckmanns Rd., then becomes Highland Avenue, then Wheeless Rd., then Ruby Drive. In this case I do not recommend a single name. The road should be called Berckmanns from Washington Rd. to Walton Way. Then from Walton Way all the way to the end of Ruby Drive, it should be given a different single name. Ruby Ridge might be a discussion starter.

Of course, Berckmanns at the golf course is going to be re-routed to connect with Stanley Dr. That makes the re-naming project interesting. When the new route is completed it should become Alexander Drive all the way from Riverwatch Pkwy. to Walton Way. No more Berckmanns.

dsterling9
1165
Points
dsterling9 07/28/14 - 07:50 am
5
0
CONFERENCE ROOMS

Hard to believe with all things going on and needing to be fixed these people are discussing naming of conference rooms. Easy fix...if on the first floor - Conference Room 1A, 1B, etc. Same for second floor - Conference Room 2A, 2B, etc. Naming of the Conference Rooms is dumb!

justthefacts
23731
Points
justthefacts 07/28/14 - 07:56 am
5
0
dsterling

You make way too much sense.

bmrepair@gmail.com
6
Points
bmrepair@gmail.com 07/28/14 - 08:17 am
4
0
splost

Even if the splost (S7) pass. if you spent over 3500.00 dollars a year , your tax is 70.00 dollars a year , and I bet most people in a 100,000 dollar home spend much more that that a year, People think about how much gas costs and add .02 cents per dollar when you purchase a gallon

dichotomy
36026
Points
dichotomy 07/28/14 - 08:53 am
5
0
corgimom...."A $70 increase

corgimom...."A $70 increase is less than $6 per month. So skip a trip to McDonald's"

THAT IS NOT THE POINT CORGIMOM. SOME PEOPLE ONLY GOT TO EAT OUT AT McDONALD'S ONCE A MONTH. The fixed income seniors are so happy that YOU are willing to sacrifice their once a month outing.

THIS IS THE POINT:

"The increase will raise the millage rate to just over 10 mills, which is higher than Columbia County’s 6.4 mills"

A 36% HIGHER tax rate than the county next door!!!! If THAT doesn't scream "move out of here and go live with the white folks NOTHING DOES".

Oh, and just wait......the lying TAX APPRAISER hasn't had his run at you yet. When he tells his lie and raises the tax valuation of your property NEXT YEAR, THEY GET A DOUBLE TAX INCREASE.

What this tax rate actually says is that Richmond County is such a miserable place to live that YOUR PROPERTY is worth 30% to 50% LESS than it would be anywhere else so THEY have to charge you a 36% HIGHER tax rate to make up for it. When you have to pay 36% higher tax rates than the neighboring, NICE, less crime, better services, safer, more amenities county it is an admission that Consolidation and the RESULTING LEADERSHIP has FAILED MISERABLY for 19 years and has just gone from a terminal descent to a spiraling nose dive. "Let's get some mo' revenoo" has won the day in Augusta/Richmond County.

Word should go out to anyone moving here with Cyber Command to avoid Richmond County like it's infected with Ebola virus. THEY tax and fee you here until they bleed you from every orifice. We should rename the place Ebola, GA.

South Richmond County.....get ready to pony up MORE "residential " TAXES on your EMPTY, vacant, "pending explosive growth" for 15 years that is NEVER COMING, AGRICULTURAL land. AND YOU STILL GET NOTHING. How's that Consolidation thingy working out for you. Aren't you so glad you adopted this welfare city 19 years ago. Hey, but the gays, the artists, and the rich folks that own all of the property DOWNTOWN are happy with your contribution and have rewarded you with another $100 to $200 a year tax increase and a $50 a year, give or take, RAIN TAX. And corgimom says you can pay it in Big Macs.

I feel like Sarah Palin.......I can SEE Columbia County from here but I just can't go there.

lgr
240
Points
lgr 07/28/14 - 10:30 am
5
0
tax increase

the tax assessor set the value of my home at $20000 more than any property has sold for in my neighborhood in over 3 years. when i filed an appeal he had an "attitude" with me. have not heard back from them and will not hear back from them. so i am already paying more property tax than i owe because i pay based on a "fair market value" which they set and i can't get. if i sold my property for what they currently bring i would get $15000 less than i paid for it over 16 years ago. the value that county has set is "pie in the sky". most everything the county does is "pie in the sky"

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 10:34 am
1
5
" I did not vote for S7....

....and will not vote for the next one if filled with crap!"

Some people call that 'cutting off your nose to spite your face.'

What percentage of S7 was "filled with crap" and do you believe it's wise to make the perfect the enemy of the good?

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 10:37 am
4
1
"Naming of the Conference Rooms is dumb!"

Ample evidence exists to prove your point.

Ask Dr. Azziz.....

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 11:01 am
4
2
"Some commissioners see the increase as unavoidable.....

....Some commissioners see the increase as unavoidable, with city departments already cut to the bone....."

Cut to the bone, eh? Take a trip out to one of road or utility repair sites and watch how many of the "workers" are actually working. Drive by the Sheriff's office and count how many police cars are parked, rather than patrolling.

In most government operations I've seen one could walk through the organization and eliminate every other "worker" you see without any service degradation if the remaining workers were actually expected to work, not just draw a paycheck and earn points toward retirement.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 11:45 am
4
1
Let establish a rule about Naming of the Conference Rooms NOW!.

No Conference Rooms can be named after a politician, a Celebrity or purchased by businesses or any person or etc...

They can only be named after people that have really done something to BETTER THE WHOLE COUNTY.

This rule should include buildings and roads.
An one added rule no re-naming of streets named after found founding fathers, or heroes.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 11:48 am
3
1
harley_52 difference of Opinion

You call it demonizing Augusta.

I call it pointing out what needs fixing...

But either way we have plenty on both sides fence.

hoptoad
18222
Points
hoptoad 07/28/14 - 11:55 am
2
0
The SPLOST is fair in that

The SPLOST is fair in that all consumers pay for it, but once it passes it never seems to go away. Weigh pros and cons.

Augusta is going to go the way of Detroit, I fear. The deterioration will eventually spill over to Columbia County. Richmond County has already relocated a lot of their project problems into Columbia County. My neighborhood has gone down hill in the past few years. Short-term renters and Section 8 renters have changed it, shutters hanging off the sides of houses, trash, damaged foliage, etc. I'm beginning to think no place is safe.

Riverman1
90088
Points
Riverman1 07/28/14 - 06:24 pm
3
1
Naming Rooms

About naming the conference rooms, I'll bet none of them will be named after John C. Calhoun.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 12:20 pm
3
1
S7 was filled with unknowns and pork

$56 Million "YET BE DETERMINED"
Million$ for Paine College,
Million$ for Private businesses,
Million$ for the Mills that GRC/MCG did not want
the list goes on...

Of the $194M one commissioner I spoke with said about 60% was actually for improvements.

I was also told if it wasn't demands by some commissioners all the way up to the last min., the Mayor's proposed SPLOST was about $40+ Million higher. Or around $247M.

ALSO
Discussions with a few DOWNTOWN Insiders, it was alluded that
Win or lose S7,
there was going to be several other tax increases and Special Project taxes in 2015 (rain tax, garbage fee hike).

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 12:21 pm
1
5
"You call it demonizing Augusta....

....I call it pointing out what needs fixing..."

And I maintain a fellow can do one without doing the other. Further, I maintain that demonizing is at least understandable when it comes from a resident of ARC who has the ability (and some would say responsibility) to vote for the kind of government they think is needed to fix the problem(s).

I see ZERO value in demonization coming from non-resident, non-voters who have no dog in the fight, but get their kicks talking about how rotten is ARC and how wonderful is the place they've chosen to live. What possible purpose is served beyond tooting their own horn and mocking the ARC citizenry?

There is a big difference between constructive criticism and pointless name calling and mocking and it's even more apparent when it involves someone who has no dog in the fight.

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 12:42 pm
1
4
I'm Sure...

....people heard and were told lots of things about the latest SPLOST. One thing I've learned in the 33 years I've lived here is that there is never a shortage of rumors, opinions.

There was definitely an organized opposition to the SPLOST. I'm certainly no insider, but it appeared to me that the most vocal opposition was coming from non-ARC residents. That was certainly the case in here.

It's rather pointless to re-hash the SPLOST vote. It's a done deal. Now we've got a very predictable property tax increase to deal with. Whatever the property tax increase (if any) MIGHT HAVE BEEN inevitable even with an approved SPLOST is purely a matter of speculation.

One thing that isn't a matter of speculation is that the entire burden of the property tax increase will be borne by the ARC property owners and not shared by all of those non-ARC property owners who benefit from ARC services and facilities.

nocnoc
46888
Points
nocnoc 07/28/14 - 01:01 pm
5
1
Actually - We are not Nomads nor 100% DIVESTED of ARC.

So maybe you misunderstood MOVING a family for safety vs. Blood Roots?

We are still registered to Vote in ARC in 2014.
We still own a small piece of property until the land prices stabilize.
We still have the wife's family on Louisa Rd. , Old Waynesboro Rd. Off Brown Rd, and in the 1500 block of BROWN RD.

I have 37 and now 38 counting my mother blood family buried in marked graves in Richmond Co. 5 buried in Westover. An many others back to 1790's sorry to say the wooden markers rotted out before they got replaced.

My mothers side worked the Downtown mills up until the 70's.

She fought the original Consolidation plans as far back as the 60's and 70's predicting where the county would be screwed .
She then put her $$$ where her mouth was and left Richmond Co. in 1997 after it consolidated.

BTW: We have 4 different inter-married family branches in Richmond Co. Cousins, aunts and uncles GREAT this or that.

An I believe I have earned a right to try and point out problems for correction and generate support to correct them having been born here and family here since the 1790's/1800's.

harley_52
24881
Points
harley_52 07/28/14 - 01:13 pm
2
3
First Of All....

....my comments don't necessarily pertain to you, or certainly not ONLY you. For all the reasons you've listed, you may well have earned the right to point out problems. These boards are open anyway. My point is that there is a difference between pointing out problems and demonizing. Demonizing is legal too, but whether it's polite, neighborly, mature, rational, or whatever is obviously a matter of opinion. Mine is that it isn't.

You do whatever you choose. You're certainly entitled to your opinions and the expression thereof. Me too.

I happen to like Augusta. My family has lived here for 33 years. I plan to stay. I don't appreciate insults and demonization directed at me, my fellow citizens, or the place we choose to live and I don't mind pointing that out whenever and wherever necessary.

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