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Commissioners seek attorney general's opinion on SPLOST distribution to local non-profit entities

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 3:06 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014 1:10 AM
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Two Augusta commissioners are seeking an opinion from the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens on the city’s disbursement of sales tax proceeds to non-profit entities.

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FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two Augusta commissioners are seeking an opinion from the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens on the city’s disbursement of sales tax proceeds to non-profit entities.The attorney general’s office may or may not elect to respond to the city’s request.

Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

The previous and proposed expense of special-purpose, local option sales taxes on construction projects by nonprofit organizations such as Paine College, Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Mini Theater was among issues raised by voters and activists who rejected the city’s SPLOST 7 referendum May 20.

Commissioner Marion Williams prompted discussion about the non-profits using the funds last week in an agenda item questioning a requirement that some entities, such as the Mini Theater, use the city’s procurement department for purchasing goods and services paid for with SPLOST while other nonprofits did not have to use the office.

“How do some entities have to follow Augusta-Richmond County contractual requirements and other entities do not?” Williams asked. “We can’t have two separate rules for two separate groups.”

But commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle and Donnie Smith pushed for a further examination of the practices related to nonprofit entities under the state’s SPLOST laws last week in light of the city’s next planned sales tax referendum in 2015.

“We have to make sure we do it right,” Guilfoyle said, to avoid “a lot of controversy; a lot of questions.”

Smith said the city should also ask Olens’ office if the city’s practice of giving the funds to nonprofits is appropriate or the city should “add some more rules to deal with that.”

Deputy General Counsel Wayne Brown told the commissioners that the attorney general’s office may or may not elect to respond to the city’s request, and at Commissioner Ben Hasan’s suggestion, the city will also ask Augusta legislators to seek the same opinion by way of the office of legislative counsel.

The matter goes before the full commission for discussion and a vote at a 2 p.m. meeting today.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Other business going before the commission for final approval Tuesday that had prior approval by commission committees include:

  •  Approving several amendments to the city’s alcohol ordinance including increasing licensing fees by 10 percent, a move expected to generate $144,000.
  • Approving Augusta Aviation Commission’s selection of ADK Executive Search to replace Augusta Regional Airport executive director Gary LeTellier, expected to retire, for a $26,400 fee plus expenses.
  • Approving amendments to the city’s hotel-motel and rental car excise tax code tightening provisions on collection and enforcement.
  • Approving Augusta Animal Services’ purchase of a sixth animal transport truck.
  • • Approving $1.6 million in sales tax funds to relocate electric transmission utilities for the Marks Church Road improvements project.
Comments (19) Add comment
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GiantsAllDay
13067
Points
GiantsAllDay 09/01/14 - 03:22 pm
5
10
Olens is much too busy

Olens is much too busy fighting the Feds to preserve the state's ability to discriminate against same sex couples.

Little Lamb
54299
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/14 - 03:24 pm
9
1
Regression

Now would be a good time for the Chronicle to do a long-term trend analysis on alcohol licenses. It could once and for all provide the answer to whether increasing alcohol license fees has an effect of suppressing the number of alcohol licenses. The licensing department in city government has the data that show how many alcohol of each description there are in effect at any given time. They should simply do a trend analysis using spreadsheet software.

Even better, do a regression analysis to compare the number of licenses to the amount of the fees.

Is anyone ready to do the work?

Little Lamb
54299
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/14 - 03:27 pm
13
1
Electricity Relocation

While they're approving the relocation of the overhead electric lines on Marks Church Road, why don't they insist that Georgia Power bury the electric lines underground. They could call it a gateway enhancement project.

bohica
553
Points
bohica 09/01/14 - 03:35 pm
21
1
No way should SPLOST funds go

No way should SPLOST funds go to private entities. Period

Little Lamb
54299
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/14 - 04:22 pm
18
1
Private Non-Profits

The organizations that city leaders have given tax money to and who were proposed to get some more from the last (thankfully failed) SPLOST referendum are non-profit organizations. Their tax exempt status is gift enough. To actually give them taxpayer funds to take care of their expenses is beyond the pale.

It is high time to end the practice. SPLOST taxes should go only to needed city-owned infrastructure.

Here are some of the organizations that have their hands in the SPLOST cookie jar: Augusta Mini-Theatre, Augusta Symphony, Paine College, Imperial Theater, Augusta Museum of History, Lucy Laney Museum of African-American History. Cut the cords.

flipa1
3133
Points
flipa1 09/01/14 - 08:50 pm
7
3
It's even worse when SPLOST

It's even worse when SPLOST money is given to a non-profit, that turns around and says we're the third most polluted river in America, Closes the dam and uses SPLOST money to cause loss to EVERYONE making a living up and down the river. Anyone using tax money to hurt the tax payers that paid it may want to consult a GOOD criminal defense attorney.... The penalties for it go up to the death penalty, so prison is a given.

GnipGnop
13340
Points
GnipGnop 09/01/14 - 09:30 pm
12
1
It's just become

easier to hold out your hand for tax dollars than actually working for it...raffles, car washes etc. etc. Also tired of hearing the argument "it's only a penny and people that shop here pay most of it". A thousand mile journey starts with a single step. Every penny given by a tax payer is a penny less in their budget. Budgets are what the common every day person has to stick too. Governments should try it some time....

Pops
22089
Points
Pops 09/01/14 - 09:52 pm
8
3
Marion Williams

asking questions about the procedures. Seems that he is interested in the Augusta Mini Theater having to go through the county purchasing department for goods paid for with SPLOST funds. Looking for racism, I bet.......

raul
7432
Points
raul 09/01/14 - 10:00 pm
10
1
@Little Lamb. They wouldn't

@Little Lamb. They wouldn't know a regression analysis if it bit them in the keister.

dichotomy
44209
Points
dichotomy 09/01/14 - 10:30 pm
15
2
I don't care what the

I don't care what the Attorney General says or doesn't say.

1. It is common sense that NO non-governmental infrastructure projects should be given taxpayer money. It's just common damned sense. No symphonies, no "artists" support, no bridge taggers, no church organizations, no Paine.

2. Since they hiked our property taxes 20%, I will vote against ANY and ALL SPLOSTs from this day forward. If you are going to TAKE my money against my wishes I damned sure am not going to volunteer to give you more. They can stick all SPLOSTs in their money grubbing ear.

I know they won't care but I will be on here reminding anyone that will listen that there is no point in feeding the pigs because you will never get any ham. They just take your money, eat it, and poop it out so all you ever get is crap. No more SPLOSTs......EVER.

Riverman1
114411
Points
Riverman1 09/02/14 - 04:58 am
7
1
What Will Actually Happen

The legislative will take absolutely no action. The Commission will now decide 6-4 to remove ALL accounting responsibility and other accountability requirements from the organizations receiving funding. The next SPLOST will be loaded for the friends of certain Commissioners and I don't mean Smith, Smith, Davis and Guilfoyle. Toto, this is not Augusta, Kansas.

geecheeriverman
10417
Points
geecheeriverman 09/02/14 - 05:17 am
9
1
mini theatre

The Augusta Mini Theatre has been slurping at the taxpayer trough for years, and I can not understand why. Mr. Butler has made a fortune.

ColCo
1147
Points
ColCo 09/02/14 - 05:21 am
2
2
Matching funds requirement

It's my understanding that under the current SPLOST, the non-profits can't receive any money until they raise funds to match the tax dollars designated for the entity. They rarely if ever do. Watch for this requirement to be eliminated.

bohica
553
Points
bohica 09/02/14 - 05:53 am
2
3
SPLOST

If all the "taxpayers" and the majority population vote on the next SPLOST, it will sadly pass. What a sham.

nocnoc
64522
Points
nocnoc 09/02/14 - 06:31 am
4
1
Hopefully, ARC taxpayers will get a

a Legal and not a political answer to the SPLOST.

But either way it shows the County Attorney's "In my opinion" opinion, is not all that trusted either by the commission, the taxpayers or BOTH.

BTW: Thank You Wayne for seeking out a STATE LEVEL ruling.
An by taking it to the next level, this far out, it shows some of the commission, is actually trying to use some long range planning.

Ironic that Once again leadership isn't found DOWNTOWN, it is found in the Old County.

nocnoc
64522
Points
nocnoc 09/02/14 - 06:33 am
6
1
But having said what I just said

1 of the top 36 rules in Politics & Court.

Is never ask a question you don't already have the answer to.

dsterling9
1664
Points
dsterling9 09/02/14 - 08:15 am
4
1
REAL LEADERS

Until we get some real leaders making the hard decisions and stop arguing about the 'racial divide' I will vote against any and all SPLOST.

nocnoc
64522
Points
nocnoc 09/02/14 - 09:18 am
9
1
I agree D9

ARC has 8 district commissioners 6 are focused only their district and forget they are Augusta & Richmond Co. commissioners.

Just think if S7 had pass, there would be about $6.5+/- MILLION in funding for a Private College to build a cultural center. A private college that cannot even fill enough seats in the class rooms to cover it basic operational costs and payroll.

jimmymac
63781
Points
jimmymac 09/02/14 - 02:12 pm
0
0
DICHOTOMY
Unpublished

I agree with you. It doesn't matter if it's legal or not it's just plain wrong. Private groups are just that and they should have the burden of raising their own money instead of sucking the taxpayers teat.

GnipGnop
13340
Points
GnipGnop 09/02/14 - 09:10 pm
0
0
Also noc

a private college that cannot figure out what a budget is and is in danger of losing their accreditation. Kinda makes sense that a certain commissioner wanted to give then money...they both operate their budget in the same way....

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