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County residents decry new tax increase at public hearings

Few show support for Augusta's first hike in seven years

Monday, Aug 11, 2014 11:19 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 10:00 AM
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A few hundred Augusta residents held back little in voicing their displeasure with a 1.75-mill property tax increase city commissioners are proposing to fill a deficit and provide employees a $500 salary boost.

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Commissioners Donnie Smith (left) and Mary Davis listen as interim administrator Tameka Allen answers questions during a hearing on Augusta's proposed tax increase.   TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Commissioners Donnie Smith (left) and Mary Davis listen as interim administrator Tameka Allen answers questions during a hearing on Augusta's proposed tax increase.

Citing their own fixed incomes, evidence of rampant government waste and the loss of residents to other counties, few showed any support for Augusta’s first tax hike in seven years.

West Augusta homeowner John Ferguson, speaking at the morning session at Warren Road Community Center, said he had to adjust his personal budget by cutting costs when hit with higher expenses.

“I can’t necessarily go to my revenue source and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got to have some more,’” Ferguson said.

“Tell us where in our budgets we can get the extra money,” said homeowner Ed Paine. “Groceries? Gas? Electricity?” Paine’s question was not answered.

The 1.75-mill tax hike will increase the county portion of a tax bill for a $200,000 home subject to a typical homestead exemption by $122.50 in tax bills that go out next month. The increase, if finalized, will generate $7.9 million.

“Like the other folks have said, we have to live within our budget,” said Harrisburg neighborhood association president Phillip Williams. That may mean occasionally doing the tough work of “firing people, good people, because you can’t afford to pay them,” as Williams said he learned to do in a business career.

The critique increased at an evening session at Henry Brigham Community Center in south Augusta.

“I just don’t see where it’s justified for the citizens to pay more taxes,” said homeowner Ralph Lee, while Augusta wastes money on “headhunters” and “surveys.”

Nora Richards said people like her on fixed incomes now “may be thinking of moving out because you cannot stretch your budget any longer,” while the government should freeze hiring and get rid of employees who make costly mistakes.

“It’s the taxpayers that suffer,” she said.

Another man said he’d observed repairs made using the wrong size pipe, only to create more work when the insufficient pipe had to be replaced.

“You want more money, but we see you wasting money,” he said.

Juanita Campbell and a neighbor cited a decades-old effort to get a backyard ditch serviced, that at one point caused “biblical proportions of frogs” on her porch.

“I’m tired of giving and not receiving,” Campbell said. “If our tax dollars isn’t doing anything in 28 years, why is it going to do anything now?”

Tee Kelly said he lived near the Columbia County line in an area once pursued by both counties.

“I wish Columbia County had kept the area I lived in; I’d be better off,” Kelly said.

Retired firefighter Frank Sanders called Augusta’s switch to once-weekly garbage pickup the “dumbest move y’all ever made” among areas in need of improvement.

Commissioners and city staff touted the low countywide millage rate in Augusta-Richmond, compared to the same rates in other Georgia counties. Even with the increase, Augusta remains among the state’s lowest, although school taxes more than make up the difference in most Georgia counties.

Commissioner Marion Williams said “you can never please everybody, but you’ve got to do what is right” and said when services are cut, it happens on “the other side of Kissingbower Road.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith used his own tax bill for $1,470 as an example.

In the bill, some $700 goes to the school system, approximately $300 for garbage, $75 for fire protection and $92 for streetlights, leaving just $310 for county government operations, which include housing inmates at $45 a day and attempting to maintain 722 retention ponds and 62 city parks.

Former commissioner Jerry Brigham, who served on the commissions that declined to raise taxes, said he wasn’t surprised a tax increase was now on the table.

“They would have had to make a commitment to slash services” without one, and “the entire group is not willing to do that,” Brigham said.

Commissioner Mary Davis said while prior commissions avoided raising taxes and dipped repeatedly into reserves, “one thing we did not want to do is push the increasing deficit to our new commissioners and keep pulling from the reserves.”

Despite the community response, Davis said she didn’t think the commission was willing to reduce the tax increase this year because they’re unable to agree on areas to cut.

“If we could find some target cuts, but you know how hard that is,” Davis said.

The commission has a final public hearing on the increase scheduled for 1:30 p.m. August 19 in the commission chamber, 530 Greene St. The final hearing precedes the 2 p.m. regular commission meeting.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Commission’s final public hearing on the proposed tax increase

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19

WHERE: Augusta Commission chambers, 530 Greene St.

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GnipGnop
12764
Points
GnipGnop 08/12/14 - 03:23 am
16
0
Really?

“If we could find some target cuts, but you know how hard that is,” Davis said.
Then resign! If it's to hard for you to do the frigging job you were elected to do which is trim the fat and make the tough decisions then you had no business running. Today at 3pm I will be signing papers to sell my RC house. Good luck ARC residents! You're gonna need it!

Riverman1
94428
Points
Riverman1 08/12/14 - 05:22 pm
17
0
Translation

Marion Williams said, "Commissioner Marion Williams said “you can never please everybody, but you’ve got to do what is right. When services are cut, it happens on the other side of Kissingbower Road.”

Translated it means those who pay taxes must support services for those who pay little. THAT audience knew it.

geecheeriverman
4905
Points
geecheeriverman 08/12/14 - 03:38 am
13
0
only 2 commissioners

I saw on the local TV news that only two commissioners were in attendance. Mary Davis and Donnie Smith. I guess the other 8 were too busy to show up. Mason, probably nursing his ego. Jackson, probably repairing a lock damaged in a burglary. Williams, probably still searching for a hard drive. Grady Smith probably cleaning out sewerage in the Marble Palace. Guilfoyle, probably herding the goats in Hephzibah. Fennoy probably looking for a fight with Woody. Lockett, probably surveying Calhoun Expressway. Johnson, probably mapping out a new route to Atlanta.

GnipGnop
12764
Points
GnipGnop 08/12/14 - 04:01 am
15
0
Oh and I guess

Raising taxes means little to a commissioner that doesn't pay his

Dixieman
17620
Points
Dixieman 08/12/14 - 05:52 am
14
0
As P.J. O'Rourke said:

"Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

pragmaticmo
464
Points
pragmaticmo 08/12/14 - 07:03 am
8
0
Augusta needs to hire a

Augusta needs to hire a professional management firm.

Lori Davis
1014
Points
Lori Davis 08/12/14 - 07:16 am
14
0
Hire Al Gray

Al Gray should be hired to get us out of this mess. He could easily point out all of the graft, over billing, double billing, corruption and fraud that the government is responsible for. Wait, he already has those figures! The Commission does not want to listen! Please join us in force on Tuesday August 19, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.; Commission Chambers(the citizen's chambers), for the last public hearing!!!!

...point to ponder
779
Points
...point to ponder 08/12/14 - 08:11 am
10
0
path of least resistance

to quote a commissioner..."(Mary)Davis said she didn’t think the commission was willing to reduce the tax increase this year because they’re unable to agree on areas to cut." If this is the only reason for a tax increase (they can't agree on areas to cut) then why are they there?

Anybody can waste money...(*the commission has years of practice)...studies...head hunters...*the list goes on.

They believe getting more money to squander is easier than making the hard choices they were elected to make!

They can't agree on cuts. (*but they can agree on a tax increase!) Have they really tried? Have they sweated it out...have they had sleepless nights worrying about the areas to cut? Really, have they? I don't think so.

I say they need to be locked in a room until they agree on the cuts.

YeSun Wiltse
29
Points
YeSun Wiltse 08/12/14 - 09:27 am
8
0
I agree with Lori Davis.

I agree with Lori Davis. Hire Al Gray!

john
1233
Points
john 08/12/14 - 09:55 am
9
0
The county never should have

The county never should have gotten in the trash collection business. What a goat rope. Government takeover then costs go up and services go down. Who woulda thunk?

grinder48
2059
Points
grinder48 08/12/14 - 10:09 am
0
0
Do Your Job!
Unpublished

I frankly don't care that ARC rates may be less that other counties. It’s an issue of how much is wasted, not what the tax rates are. Citizens wouldn't be so opposed to an increase if the reasons for its being needed weren't incompetence, waste, fraud and abuse. I don't know Al Gray but hear I him on AR Show and he can quote chapter and verse on waste, fraud and abuse in local gov't and it's irrefutable but the power brokers always manage to keep dissention and opposition at bay. We need an open government and a commission with the guts to cut the waste and clean up the gov't. I don’t care if it’s difficult, DO YOUR JOB!

dichotomy
37674
Points
dichotomy 08/12/14 - 10:36 am
7
0
I'd love to go to the meeting

I'd love to go to the meeting today but I am sure my anger would overtake my brain and my mouth would fly open spewing profanities resulting in either my arrest or ejection.

"Commissioner Donnie Smith used his own tax bill for $1,470 as an example"

If my tax bill was only $1400 a year I wouldn't complain much either. Does Donnie get a break from the TAX Appraiser for being a commissioner. Or does National Hills get the special "Not Southeast Richmond County" tax rate? Oh, I know. Donnie doesn't own any of this high dollar, "pending explosive growth", VACANT, forcibly rezoned "residential" land in SOUTHEAST Richmond County THAT YOU CAN'T GIVE AWAY FOR THE TAX VALUE.

I'm EXTREMELY disappointed in, no...I am furious with Donnie Smith and Mary Davis. I can almost understand the "let's get some mo' revenoo" commissioners since some of them don't pay their taxes anyway. But as far as I am concerned Donnie Smith and Mary Davis are traitors to the middle class working property owners who PAY for the rest of this county. They are both Judas goats. They've been sent to lead the minority "rest of us" into the slaughter house to pay the bills they and their fellow IDIOTS ran up. Neither one of them has made a serious effort to identify waste, abuse, duplication, corruption, or redundant and unnecessary employees. The black "let's get mo' revenoo" commissioners did not have to wait until next January to get a majority on the commission. Mary Davis and Donnie Smith caved in 2 years ago. Their traitorous nature was obvious when they participated in the vote to fire Russell when the issue was not on the meeting agenda and several of their fellow commissioners were absent and unaware of their traitorous shenanigans. Regardless of the eventual outcome of that situation, Smith and Davis demonstrated their lack of character and integrity that night and it continues.

No, I can't go to the tax meeting. My tax bill does not leave me enough money to be paying a bondsman to get out of jail. Plus, I've learned that if I go to a public meeting and emotionally express my concerns, Austin will call me names humiliate me on his little radio show. But I was right about the out of control cost of garbage service wasn't I Austin...regardless of you pseudo-intellectual "superior" opinion to the contrary and your childish name calling. The cost of garbage service has doubled and the service cut in half. Elmer sends you a one finger salute. I'm right about the unnecessary tax increase and the FAILURE to even try to cut spending too.

americafirst
1001
Points
americafirst 08/12/14 - 11:26 am
5
0
Funny how they can't agree on

Funny how they can't agree on cuts, but apparently have no problem agreeing on raising taxes.

Darby
29559
Points
Darby 08/12/14 - 03:52 pm
6
0
Jerry Brigham said...

“They would have had to make a commitment to slash services” without one, and “the entire group is not willing to do that,” Brigham said."

.
Let me edit Jerry's statement.

“They would have had to make a commitment to CONTROL WASTE AND MISMANAGEMENT” and “the entire group is not willing to do that.”

There - that reads a lot more accurately.

nocnoc
49786
Points
nocnoc 08/12/14 - 04:35 pm
3
0
How's this for a solution?

Lets just start giving every Commissioner a $1Million salary.
Then deduct a percentage from that $1M every time they waste or spend $$$$$ beyond established operational essentials for the county.

Then tax them for pot holes, political basis administration votes, each lawsuit, higher than national average taxes, crime, spending and just plain stupid ARC embarrassing statements.

If we inject outright greed into the equation, self serving thriftiness and less foot in their mouth statements should kick in.

Also it would price them out of the realm of Good Old Boy favors and back channel rewards and the need for campaign donations/favors.

Want bet it would save ARC 100x of Millions in the long run?

GnipGnop
12764
Points
GnipGnop 08/12/14 - 04:34 pm
4
0
No longer a

property owner in ARC!! Yay!!! Good luck guys. I had enough.

nocnoc
49786
Points
nocnoc 08/12/14 - 04:39 pm
2
0
GnipGnop

what took you so long to join the rest of the middle class that decided enough was enough.

What I would like to see is Downtown come up with 1, just 1 AUGUSTA Original Idea, that wasn't copied from another city and didn't work there either, for the benefit of the taxpayers.

GnipGnop
12764
Points
GnipGnop 08/12/14 - 05:18 pm
2
0
I kept hoping

it would make a turn for the better....sadly I don't see that ever happening. Consolidation was the final nail to keep the southside from recovery.

nocnoc
49786
Points
nocnoc 08/12/14 - 04:45 pm
3
0
I would love to spend a week in the AC Archives

as far back as 60's, documenting all the warning about what Consolidation would do to Richmond Co.

Given my 1970+ involvement against Consolidation,
The nuts as they were called then are batting about 750 out of a 1000.

nocnoc
49786
Points
nocnoc 08/12/14 - 04:51 pm
2
0
Example of over priced

I almost pay 1/2 the amount for garage pickup here in Henry co.

I get to pick, and fire my trash guy,
I get to shop for the best price.

I get to watch the guy actually get out of the truck and close the lid and make sure the bin is not in the road or ditch.

nocnoc
49786
Points
nocnoc 08/12/14 - 04:52 pm
2
0
Good night every one

Headed out for some more fishing.

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