Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

May election date causes 'time crunch' on sales tax package

  • Follow City Ink

Legislation that sets the state general partisan primary for May has Au­gus­ta officials scrambling to put a special purpose local option sales tax package together and get it approved by voters to meet a critical June 30 deadline.

“The election date being pushed back to May 20 has created a major time crunch on the SPLOST that we’ve never experienced before,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

Eight million dollars being proposed for the Geor­gia Regents Medical Cen­ter Cancer Center will need to be approved by the Au­gusta Commission along with the rest of the package, the mayor said.

In that package will also be $28.5 million to pay off bonds used to complete renovations to the Marble Palace.

“The urgency of the timeline is that our community needs to have $12 million in local funds committed prior to the end of June in order to access $48 million in state funding for the cancer center,” Copenhaver said. “There is the potential that we will get a 25 percent match of $4 million from the private sector to go with the city’s $8 million investment to cover the full local commitment of $12 million. However, if we don’t have that amount committed prior to the end of June, the $48 million goes away.

“So either we get the $8 million approved, which will then bring in a total of $52 million – $4 million from the private sector and $48 million in state funding – or we lose out on the $52 million altogether. It’s unfortunate that the state has put us in this situation as the stakes couldn’t be higher for the upcoming SPLOST, but I believe as our community is educated on how much the package will mean to the future of our city that we’ll be able to get this done.”

Augusta mayoral candidates and candidates for five commission seats also will be scrambling to get their messages out to voters by the May 20 election.

A RAT’S TALE: Augusta Com­missioner Marion Williams said city employees probably ratted him out on his $3,654 in delinquent property taxes because he made them mad by criticizing those who don’t live in Richmond County.

“I don’t give a rat tail about that,” he said. “It makes me happy when they’re mad.”

IS A CONCEPTUAL IDEA THE SAME AS A LIE? Apparently Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz and his administration don’t give a rat tail about their own word, much less anybody else’s. It makes them happy when we’re mad.

In August, they revealed blueprints showing “Geor­gia Regents Univer­sity Au­gusta” would replace “Au­gus­ta State Univer­sity” on the brick pillars at the school’s entrance on Walton Way and other gateway signs throughout the campuses.

But that was only a “conceptual idea,” said David Brond, GRU’s senior spin doctor.

No matter that the plans for the $3.8 million project were vetted by students, faculty and staff members and authorized by the state Board of Regents. King Azziz and his court came up with another conceptual idea that turned concrete, and the signs installed last month read “Georgia Regents University” above “Uni­versity System of Geor­gia,” with no “Augusta” in sight.

CAN YOU SPOT THE LIES? “The most vocal are the people who are going to be either very positive or very negative (to the GRU name). Our real work now is in coming together as a community to make this the best decision, the best choice. We are listening to the reaction, and we are really beginning the work of moving forward in a positive direction to create some enthusiasm in the community.” – Brond, Aug. 8, 2012

“What we will see, and what the world will see and what the state will see will be Georgia Regents University Augusta.”
– Azziz, October 2012

Questioned about altered photos in a new publication that touts Augusta State University’s athletic traditions while erasing the former school’s name and insignias from team uniforms, Brond said the changes were done to avoid confusing future students with names of the former institutions that merged in January to create GRU.

“The question was how to alleviate that confusion.” – Brond, Feb. 26, 2013

“I accept full responsibility for the approval of the Georgia Regents University Au­gusta view book in question, independent of Dr. (Ricardo) Az­ziz and other senior administrators.” – Vice Provost Ro­man Cibirka, Feb. 28, 2013

“We messed up! And because at the end of the day the buck stops at my desk … my team and I have to take full responsibility for this error (altered photos).”
– Azziz, March 6, 2013

“The final signage that is being placed as we speak on the campuses now has been tweaked, yes, from what we were sharing, but those were conceptual ideas.”
– Brond, Jan. 13, 2014

“Really it’s not about the signage; it’s about the educational quality provided, the academic programs, the research. The signage is literally just a gateway to get people to our campus.”
– Brond, Jan. 13, 2014

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWEAKING AND NITPICKING? Not much.

An Augusta Commission subcommittee met last week to “tweak” the administrator’s job description.

Among the duties enumerated was for the administrator to present commissioners with a balanced budget every year, which is one thing they faulted Fred Rus­sell for not doing, which, of course, was misplaced blame. It was they who didn’t have the guts to get together and approve one of several budget-balancing alternatives Russell presented. He could have easily put in a 2-mill tax increase as several commissioners suggested and the excise tax on electricity, and plopped it down in front of them. Then what would they have done?

The stringent requirements for education and experience are likely to weed out most candidates except for out-of-town retired administrators wanting to relocate in the sunny South. Why else would someone with a master’s degree in business, etc., experienced in managing budgets of $600 million subject himself to abuse from some of those yahoos who can’t make their subjects and verbs agree?

OUT OF THE FIRE SERVICE AND INTO THE FRYING PAN: The Clayton News Daily reported that the Morrow City Council narrowly hired former Au­gus­ta Fire Chief Ronnie Few as city manager last week, although half the council members said they’d never heard of him before.

The four-member council was divided on hiring Few, and Mayor J.B. Burke had to vote to break the tie.

“Who is he? What are his qualifications?” council member Jeanell Bridges asked new councilman Chris Mills, who made the motion to hire Few, the newspaper reported.

The hiring bypassed the city’s vetting process for job candidates.

Few was fire chief in Au­gusta from 1997 to 2000 and left amid a grand jury investigation to become chief of the Washington, D.C., fire department, where his tenure was rife with controversy. He resigned from Washington in 2002. The grand jury investigation did not yield an indictment.

He was hired as chief of the Demopolis (Ala.) Fire Depart­ment in 2007. In December 2012, the council voted not to rehire him.

Comments (20) 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.
just an opinion
2461
Points
just an opinion 01/18/14 - 10:11 pm
10
2
Marion Williams ....

Referring to city employees : "It makes me happy when they're mad". Thanks for all you do to help the employee morale and this city as a whole. Stick it to them! Your constituents love it.

JRC2024
8271
Points
JRC2024 01/18/14 - 09:50 pm
8
2
Marion you are one big

Marion you are one big embarrasment to Richmond County and you can't even talk with correct English.

dichotomy
31619
Points
dichotomy 01/18/14 - 10:29 pm
11
2
"I don’t give a rat tail

"I don’t give a rat tail about that,” he said. “It makes me happy when they’re mad.”

And it makes us happy that they leaked the proof of what a sorry low down two faced hypocrite you are Marion. What an embarrassment you are to this city.

Pops
7500
Points
Pops 01/18/14 - 10:51 pm
6
3
More "yawn" potential private sector money

“There is the potential that we will get a 25 percent match of $4 million from the private sector to go with the city’s $8 million investment to cover the full local commitment of $12 million."

Always words like "potential" being used when they talk about private sector money to be combined with taxpayer dollars. That private sector money never seems to quite show up in the amounts these so called "leaders" promise.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/18/14 - 10:53 pm
7
2
Lets make this a real LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX

Why not let each District vote on whether they want it or not?

That would be a neat way to see how each district in county stands and which ones want others to pay for their extra spending projects.

It would also give areas (districts) that refused the extra optional Tax an advantage over those that adopt it, by having a lower tax rate thus attracting sales and businesses.

If this can't be done????
Then how about REQUIRING 80% of all collected SPLOST taxes be used across all districts evenly.

dichotomy
31619
Points
dichotomy 01/18/14 - 11:30 pm
8
2
And I recommend keeping all

And I recommend keeping all of the PRIVATE "me too, me too" organizations off of the list. ONLY GOVERNMENT PROJECTS equally disbursed among all districts. NO PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS. No arts, no "it's for the children" churches, no theaters, nothing but official government projects. I'm tired of the "city" using taxpayer's dollars to fund every half-azzized organization in town that cannot stand on it's own merits.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 12:10 am
5
2
regarding The A in front of GRU

It is simple ARC owns the road and side walk in front of GRU Signs.

Just Erect a "AUGUSTA - GRU" sign in front of their sign.

After all it is not like it wasn't agreed on already.

------------------
But take a step back people and think about it...
Do you really think certain people in the area did not know the GRU plans all along.

Maybe there a carrot offered "unofficially" to go along like the possibility of a MILL being bought or something?

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 01/19/14 - 06:25 am
1
3
Like Minds

I had the same thought a few days ago, NocNoc. They could just put one of those city of Augusta green signs with the silver blade coming out the bottom in front of the Grooo signs on the right of way. The Augusta signs are not as tall as the Grooo signs, but that's perfect. You can see both Azziz's signs with the Augusta sign right below it.

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 01/19/14 - 06:29 am
4
2
Bum's Rush

In the old days, the county commission appointed citizen committees to hold public meetings and allowed the people to speak about which projects they liked for the SPLOST and which projects they didn't. I know, because I spoke at one of them. Ed Tarver, before he was judge, was the chair of the citizen committee.

Now, it's nothing but arrogance. They will cobble together a pork-laden package in secret meetings in back rooms where the public is forbidden, then put it on the ballot with the threat, "if you don't vote for SPLOST, we're raising your property tax millage rate."

The legacy of Fred Russell lives on in Deke Copenhaver.

Anyway, I hope you'll join me in voting NO! on SPLOST in May.

Riverman1
81245
Points
Riverman1 01/19/14 - 09:48 am
5
2
The 8 Million For GRU

That 8 million Richmond County is going to contribute to the GRU cancer center represents more of county money being thrown at the downtown area. I'd at least put stipulations on money given to GRU such as Azziz showing the city respect and putting Augusta back on the signs.

Brad Owens
4178
Points
Brad Owens 01/19/14 - 10:11 am
3
3
They will get what they want...

They always do. The voters of this county are not paying attention and they always word those things where it sounds like a perfect vacation.

A storm is coming...

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 01/19/14 - 10:50 am
2
1
I don't think so

From Sylvia's column:

“The election date being pushed back to May 20 has created a major time crunch on the SPLOST that we’ve never experienced before,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

In the first place, the election is not being pushed back. Instead, it's being pulled up.

In the second place, I remember reading a Susan McCord story which said the existing SPLOST phase is going to extend well into 2015. There is no reason to panic here.

If city leaders think they absolutely must kick in $12 million to Grooo for the cancer center, then they can shuffle around some projects in the existing SPLOST. Just because they get a thumbs up vote on this referendum, the tax money does not start coming in until the existing SPLOST expires.

In the third place, the $8 million tax money plus $4 million "potential" private money is not a make or break for Grooo. The state is lined up to put $48 million tax dollars into the cancer center. They're not going to worry if Augusta doesn't come up with our $12 million.

Heck, Gov. Deal and the Board of Regents spill more than $12 million every time they get together for happy hour. $12 million is nothing to them.

And, yes, RM is exactly correct. Augusta should insist that the brand Grooo Augusta be put on the gateway signs at both campuses before the cancer center gets a dime of city money.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 10:57 am
1
2
here is another in simple suggestion

Tax increases may only be voted on by Self-standing
(no Gov assistance) Property owning Taxpayers.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 11:05 am
1
1
What is are the Typical Mid Size City Admin duties

It is not hard to figure this out.

Just google; "city administrator job description"

countyman
19507
Points
countyman 01/19/14 - 12:27 pm
2
1
Change!!!

The Cancer Center is desperately needed and let's please continue to move Augusta forward.. The city of Augusta ranked second for high tech job growth and we have to leverage our local resources.

Dr. Azziz wants to help build the city up and he's not the problem.. The people who don't want Augusta to make any dramatic changes but want the suburban counties to lead the way are the real problem.. The suburban counties don't have the infrastructure to become the main county and help attract the big business.

The constant bias against Richmond County won't change the FACTS... The urban core is the best place in the ENTIRE CSRA for attracting high paying white collar office jobs except for maybe West Augusta.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 01:27 pm
1
1
Many point out that we South Siders are the Problem.

UPGRADED with Apologies extended
==================================

We are a problem because we want a equal share of our Tax $$$.

We are a problem because we point out waste, corruption, and special Deals.

We are a problem because we object to a vast majority of the ARC tax $$$$ being spent downtown or on "special" groups.

We are a major problem because we need to shut the heck up and just pay, pay and pay.

Who are we to expect equal return on the $$$ paid out?

As I have said before.
Given all the access to ARC data many seem to have,
show us $% for $% where the Tax Payer $ is going and
show us how to verify the data.

BTW: I give anyone a break, just show us the last 5 years not all 16+ ---- but I am speaking only of ARC Property Tax & SPLOST $$$$ not GA & Fed amounts and projects.

Regarding any SPLOST votes.
I will strongly recommend everyone to vote NO.
The NON-CITY areas have been neglected enough.
We want to see a Political hands tied WRITTEN VOTED ON AGREEMENT which includes EQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF SPLOST $$$$$ across all Districts. Because we know how 6 Commissioners tend to vote.

countyman
19507
Points
countyman 01/19/14 - 01:27 pm
3
1
Confuse....

Nocnoc.. Where did I say anything in relation to South Augusta? The multiple SPLOST in RC can be accessed over the internet and you can view the entire project list for yourself..

Where are the facts to show the vast majority of funds have been spent downtown?

Why do you believe South Augusta is more important than West Augusta for example?

Some of the comments related to taxpayer money obviously have no problem offering double standards. Why should West Augusta have to rely on private money? Do you really want the entire county to get their fair share or just spend the money in South Augusta?

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 01:21 pm
3
1
BTW:

Even tho I will be moving in March, come MAY, I'll vote Absentee Ballot, for 2 reasons:

1. I will not register in my new location until June.
2. because the bloodline my Southern 1/2 of family tree has lived over 220 years (1790's).

A Southern family of Sharecroppers, cotton pickers, mill workers, Levee builders, initial paved road builders, a good share of drunks, musicians, hell raisers, all ranging from dirt poor to upper middle class, state & county workers, CSA to Vietnam dead and wounded, UGA - GS, AC and Ga Tech Grad's and a few semi-disowned politicians.

Who knows once ARC hits rock bottom, maybe in 3 or 4 generations my G-Grand Kids might be moving back to rebuild it.

nocnoc
40260
Points
nocnoc 01/19/14 - 01:40 pm
2
1
The South Side vs. Westsiide vs Downtown

The reverse is, the South is No Less important than any other area either.

As such shouldn't majority of its own collected tax $$$ be reinvest back in to the area overwhelmingly?
Shouldn't the districts that make up the South Side get their share of the total ARC Taxes collected minus 10% percentage to support Downtown?

Is that fair and equal?

Given the # of other districts if they contributed <10% plus what Down town collects that should be enough for downtown?

Sweet son
9943
Points
Sweet son 01/19/14 - 03:07 pm
1
2
Cancer Center? What is this?

Actually, doesn't GRU already have a nice building at the corner of Laney-Walker and R A Dent Blvd. called a Cancer Center.

I have a family member who goes to that building for chemo and I thought that was the GRU Cancer Center.

What is the need for another one?

I guess I just don't understand because that facility is not that old. Is it to small or something?

Back to Top

Top headlines

Coroner granted funds to offset transportation costs

The Richmond County Coroner's Office will get some relief now that it can access funds collected through a partnership with Georgia Regents Medical Center.
Search Augusta jobs