Augusta Economy

More News | Fort Gordon | Plant Vogtle | Savannah River Site | Editor

Public hearings set on Augusta property tax increase

Thursday, July 31, 2014 8:54 PM
Last updated Friday, Aug 1, 2014 4:27 AM
  • Follow Government

Homeowners who blistered Internet comment boards with complaints about the Augusta Commission’s 7-0 vote Wednesday to raise property taxes by 1.75 mills have the opportunity to air their concerns in person at one of three upcoming public hearings required by state law.

“There are a lot of folks using expletives and exclamation points,” Phillip Williams, head of Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association said a day after the commission vote.

“If you keep raising taxes, you’re going to run out of Richmond County the people who are actually paying taxes, and you’re going to exacerbate the situation,” he said.

Seven commissioners, several facing harsh criticism from landholding constituents, voted unanimously Wednesday to increase the countywide property tax millage rate by 1.75 mills to 9.788 mills, a 21.77 percent increase in revenue.

The millage increase amounts to a $61.25 annual increase on a $100,000 homesteaded home, or a $175 annual tax hike on a $250,000 home, although the county portion of a tax bill tends to get lost next to the Richmond County Board of Education portion, which is nearly two-thirds of the bill for homeowners not exempt.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, who took a lot of heat for the vote from District 7 property owners and businesspeople opposed to a tax increase, said he’d heard from a few who understood the commission’s position.

“The key to this whole thing in my mind is to stay healthy as a government,” Smith said.

For the last seven years, the commission has frequently relied on its reserves to balance the budget while declining to raise the millage rate. This year, facing a $5.9 million deficit and reserves further depleted by the winter storm, commissioners took staff advice and agreed to the increase, using $625,000 of it to give all employees a $500 bonus and freeing another $625,000 to purchase up to five vacation days back from employees.

“I understand it, but I don’t like it,” Williams said. “The thing that I would have liked to have seen is somebody up there saying the reason we don’t have this money is our tax base is eroding and continuing to erode.”

As many local governments are seeing their tax digests – the total roll of all taxable properties in a county – bounce back from the recession, Augusta’s net digest has remained relatively flat over the last five years, increasing only slightly each year from $4.47 billion in 2009 to $4.71 billion now.

The increase will no doubt prove useful fodder on the local political scene. At least one commissioner who wasn’t present for the tax vote, Alvin Mason, took to the airwaves Thursday to criticize the move.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who said he missed the called-meeting vote because of a preexisting periodontal appointment, said he would have voted against his seven colleagues because he made a campaign promise not to raise taxes.

“I would hate to be called a liar,” Guilfoyle said. “It would have been 7-1.”

Commissioner Grady Smith said he’d heard complaints from homeowners in west and south Augusta who feel like they’re “paying the brunt of the deal” for the non-taxpaying public, but that the commission will “zero in on what this money is going to be spent for” and ensure it’s spent wisely. Those threatening to leave for Columbia or Aiken counties, however, should move on, he said.

“If they’re too cheap to step up to the plate and pay for goods and services, go on somewhere else,” Smith said.

Smith’s opponent in the last election, attorney Brandon Dial, said he opposed the increase because it only pays down debt and provides no new services for residents.

“And there is no promise of or agreement for a concomitant reduction in spending,” Dial said.

IF YOU GO

The Augusta Commission has scheduled three public hearings on a proposed millage rate of 9.788 mills.

• 10 a.m. Aug. 11 at Warren Road Gymnasium, 300 Warren Road

• 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Henry Brigham Senior Center, 2463 Golden Camp Road

• 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Lee Beard Commission Chamber, 530 Greene St.

Comments (13) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 07/31/14 - 10:52 pm
6
0
Interesting that Grady….

…would say to those not happy with the increase to "move on"…

My guess is that's just what they will do….Does the phrase "cut off your nose to spite your face" ring a bell Grady?

Also interesting that Donnie Smith said he'd heard from a "few" who understood the commissions position….While I believe that statement to be true…I'm quite sure he heard from WAY more NOT happy with his vote…no mind….in two years I'm sure his tears will return as he has to look for gainful employment after NOT being re-elected.

..As a RC taxpayer, my beef isn't really the fact THAT we have an increase in the millage rate , it's more the fact of WHY we have an increase…

If we weren't spending millions (collectively) on salaries for "Collaboration Project Directors" and Jazz Cafes (Mr.K), do- nothing DDA directors and parking meter studies (Margaret Woodard), consulting fees for the LW project (Chester Wheeler et al) , incompetent project management firms(Heery Intl.), power bills for the TEE center, (Paul Simon and co.) writing checks to Costco, ..(dang my fingers are getting tired!!)…WE MIGHT NOT NEED TO RAISE TAXES!!!!

Point being ….while we may a revenue problem…the bigger issue is, we have a "too many snouts at the trough" problem….

Until our city leaders can find the "stones" to cut off the spigot to their pals, cronies, golf partners, lawyers, contractors, drinking buddies,in-laws, cousins,and various ne'er do wells, we will see this trend continue…

To the ultimate detriment of ALL of Richmond County….

But hey!…It doesn't matter….THEY can leave whenever they want …right Grady?..

JRC2024
8854
Points
JRC2024 08/01/14 - 01:04 am
4
4
Why would I sell a paid for

Why would I sell a paid for house and move to Columbia County over a small increase in taxes. The gas going and coming from Richmond County back to Columbia County each morning to work would be way more than the tax increase and I suspect that is the situation for alot of people. As for the people in Harrisburg, I have seen some of their tax bills and they are not much. They could smoke three less cartons of cigs a year and that would cover the cost. Mine is going up around $300.00 per year. I think I can handle that.

geecheeriverman
2408
Points
geecheeriverman 08/01/14 - 05:21 am
3
0
I 2nd that

Conservative man, I concur with your sentiments 100%. As to Al Mason not showing up to vote, and then ranting on radio, what a hypocrite.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/14 - 08:54 am
2
0
Healthy?

From the story:

“The key to this whole thing in my mind is to stay healthy as a government,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

I voted for Donnie Smith last time because I had personal dislike of his opponent. I will not vote for Smith ever again. Augusta needs to have a healthy government by getting lean and fit, not by bloating up.

avidreader
3213
Points
avidreader 08/01/14 - 09:02 am
2
0
Conservative Man!

EXCELLENT COMMENTARY -- "..As a RC taxpayer, my beef isn't really the fact THAT we have an increase in the millage rate , it's more the fact of WHY we have an increase…"

RMSHEFF
16001
Points
RMSHEFF 08/01/14 - 09:04 am
2
0
JRC2014

It is not this one tax increase but a trend over the past 35 years. Richmond county is in decline that started in the 1980's when the schools began to fail the students. Those with the resources to leave have or will and it has to do with the overall direction and leadership issues. Richmond county is now run by big spending liberals who do not know how to manage resources. Rest assure that there will be future tax increases as Richmond county continues to lose residents. It is a slow bleeding and the only one that will remain will be those that can't leave. This will cause property values to decline further while property values in other areas increase. This decline has happened in many areas around Atlanta.....and other areas where politicians think they can continue to increase taxes instead of cutting spending.

RMSHEFF
16001
Points
RMSHEFF 08/01/14 - 09:13 am
2
0
This is a leadership crisis.

This is a leadership crisis. Just look to the accomplishment (or lack of accomplishments) in the personal lives of the politicians running the government. If they can't manage their personal financial lives why would you think they can manage yours?

Little lamb's post about Donnie Smith says it all. He is more concerned with the Government doing well than those that live in Richmond county.

Lori Davis
920
Points
Lori Davis 08/01/14 - 09:13 am
1
0
Conservatie Man nailed it,

Conservatie Man nailed it, and those of us who have been intimately involved in uncovering everything he mentioned, are very disappointed in our Commissioners who have had every bit of this information for the past three years of our hard work. As far as the folks in Harrisburg smoking less cigarettes, Harrisburg has 2300 houses. There are roughly 200 home owners left. To JRC2024, those 2100 renters pay zero taxes. As Phil Williams said, more tax payers will ultimately leave. As for me, $300 in extra taxes plus the illegal Urban M&O is A LOT of money to me! Thank goodness a band of concerned citizens have worked their collective butts off to expose all of this! Sad Sad that our Commission knowing what they know, are ignoring the information. Suck it up? I don't think so.

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 08/01/14 - 09:28 am
2
1
" If they can't manage their personal financial lives....

....why would you think they can manage yours?

Great question.

These are the citizens WE elected to manage our financial lives in Augusta/Richmond County. If they are not up to the job, it's OUR fault, not theirs.

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 08/01/14 - 09:34 am
1
1
".... those 2100 renters pay zero taxes."

Neither do any of Columbia County folks who shop here, nor the Masters visitors, nor any other non-resident who spends money here. For that, you can thank all the voters who voted against the SPLOST at the urging of all those non-residents who didn't want to pay the extra penny when they shopped here.

lgr
226
Points
lgr 08/01/14 - 10:53 am
2
0
tax increase

well grady i would move on if i could. my property taxes keep going up and what i can sell my home for keeps going down. no one wants my home, so i am stuck. but in a few years i will no longer have to pay the school tax, i will be old enough to be exempt, and that will save me. and any money i have to pay in higher taxes, you bunch of idiots, i can't; spend and pay the higher SPLOST on. you can only move my tax dollars from one column to another, you can not make the amount i have to spend any greater.

Lori Davis
920
Points
Lori Davis 08/01/14 - 03:49 pm
0
0
FYI..geechee...

I believe Alvin Mason had to work the day the meeting was called …Remember some commissioners do have "day" jobs….

..But further, I"ve also been told that of the two days the Mayor allotted for the vote, he (the Mayor) chose the day he knew Guilfoyle had to leave early and Alvin could not get out of work…..
So it may not be a "hypocritical" thing on Mason's part , but a contrived , behind the scenes play by the Mayor….

JRC2024
8854
Points
JRC2024 08/02/14 - 12:09 am
0
0
Lori, renters pay taxes in

Lori, renters pay taxes in their rent to the landlord who pays the property tax. Your increase would be about a $60.00-$80.00 increase.I used to live in Woodbridge 30 years ago and the traffic was bad then. It is horrible, horrible, and horrible now. The taxes in Columbia County are also high and I think higher than Richmond county. I just happen to like Richmond County because I grew up here, make my living here and it is close to everything I do. All taxes have to go up sometime as people want more and more services and things cost more and more. I agree some of the commissioners are not very smart when it comes to money. Now that the area has changed and business people have stopped running for office I am sure there will be a lot of mistakes in judgement. Passing the SPLOST would have helped the money situation and the penny would have been paid by all, even those on welfare and entitlement checks.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs