Augusta voters are set to vote on the consolidated government’s latest special purpose local option sales tax package by a referendum that appears on the May 20 ballot.
The Augusta Chronicle addresses the 1 percent sales tax collection in a continuing series until election day.
Q: Why are special purpose local option sales tax funds designated for nongovernmental entities?
A: The 1987 and 1991 packages were billed to Augusta-Richmond County voters as an easy funding source for needed road, drainage and related infrastructure work. By the third package in 1995, funding was specifically designated for three private entities – Augusta Mini Theater, Lucy C. Laney Museum and Springfield Baptist Church – for the stated purpose of attracting support from black voters.
Not-for-profit entities that are private, yet generally open to the public, such as Historic Augusta, Fore Augusta, the mini theater, Laney museum, Imperial Theatre and Symphony Orchestra Augusta requested and received similar sales-tax allocations from subsequent tax packages with no known legal challenges.
Allocations for private entities in the proposed $194 million package include $5.25 million for Augusta Regional Collaborative, $2.775 million for Greater Augusta Arts Council, $2.5 million for the Imperial Theatre, $4.25 million for Symphony Orchestra Augusta, $6 million for Paine College and $500,000 for Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.