Budget axes, not new taxes

City should explain why it thinks millage needs to rise

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Augusta residents face a 22-percent increase to their property tax millage rate.

And they’re entitled to an explanation from elected officials.

Why is there a nearly $6 million budget deficit? Why can’t it be offset by cutting expenses? Are there really no “nonessential” city employees or duplicated services? Why does the proposed increase have to be so high?

These questions and others deserve answers. City taxpayers will have the opportunity to ask at three state-law-mandated public hearings starting today at 10 a.m. at the Warren Road Community Center gymnasium at 300 Warren Road, and at 6 p.m. at the Henry Brigham Senior Center, 2463 Golden Camp Road.

The third hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Lee Beard Commission Chamber of the Municipal Building, 530 Greene St.

The proposed 1.75-mills increase, which would bring the millage rate to 9.788, would amount to a $61.25 annual increase on a $100,000 homesteaded home, or a $175 annual tax hike on a $250,000 home.

That may not seem like much to the 10 commissioners perched on their raised dais at city hall, but it certainly is to the county’s taxpaying residents, who – if they are representative of the broader American public – likely have not seen any increase in household income in recent years.

When costs increase without a corresponding rise in revenue or debt load, there is no better rational choice than to cut expenses. Certainly, the county government has an obligation to prove it has done everything it can to cut waste and nonessential expenses before reaching deeper into our wallets.

And if such cutbacks resulted in a reduction of services, so be it. Let the taxpaying public that funds those services decide whether those services are wanted or needed.

Isn’t that how government is supposed to work?

Of course it is. But all too often our elected leaders seem to stop representing people and start representing the bureaucracy the moment they are sworn into office. Public hearings are the place to remind politicians and government workers whom they work for.

Raising taxes should be a last resort – not the easy way out. City leaders must realize any property-tax increase simply reduces money that otherwise would have percolated into the community. The city government can’t take millions out of the local economy without expecting to see an impact somewhere.

The fact that Augusta-Richmond County hasn’t had a tax hike in years – instead choosing to erode its reserves – is neither justification for an increase nor absolution from accountability.

This government is not unlike most others – its current financial situation is a result of overspending, not undertaxing.

Elected officials would serve the public better by reaching for axes, not taxes.

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agustinian 08/11/14 - 06:34 am
Comparative Study

Dear AC,
Can you do a story on comparative tax rates around Georgia? Are the property taxes in Richmond County higher, lower, about the same as other comparable areas around the state? What are they in Macon, Savannah, Athens, Cusetta, Columbus, Georgetown?

Lori Davis
Lori Davis 08/11/14 - 06:58 am
Those Pesky Citizens!

How dare we be upset about raising property taxes and I for one do not care what other cities do! In Augusta; government graft, corruption, fraud, double dipping, change orders, etc. have contributed to the bilking of the treasury! Clean this up before asking for one more tax dollar from the citizenry!

Riverman1 08/11/14 - 08:01 am
Good Luck With That

Good luck with that. This new city government is going to represent the antithesis of cutting spending. They are going to create enough city jobs to give every relative in the county a paycheck. I've noticed that one proponent of more spending often mentions there are millions in the reserve fund. I guess he doesn't quite understand what a reserve fund is for.

deestafford 08/11/14 - 08:15 am
The other day there was an article in the AC...

The other day there was an article in the AC with the headline stating Fulton County was raising its property taxes by 17% ! Here we are getting stuck with a 22% hike!

As Riverman hints at---"Cut spending? You've got to be kidding. You ain't seen nothin' yet. It's time to get ours."

jimmymac 08/11/14 - 09:24 am

New crew needs new shoes. Hold on to your wallets folks because you ain't seen nothing yet.

WalterBradfordCannon 08/11/14 - 10:12 am
It is more than a little

It is more than a little disingenuous to write such an editorial. Why don't you take the budget data from

and make an infographic. Let your readers play with the numbers and save $6 million. Don't forget that city government provides essential services, like law enforcement, and reductions in safety in Augusta will be counterproductive. Law enforcement is the largest budget item. Number two is water and sewerage services. Then we get into the fire department, the airport, and employee benefits. Which one(s) do you want to reduce without impacting the quality of life in the city?

cush1944 08/11/14 - 10:21 am
"Which one(s) do you want to

"Which one(s) do you want to reduce without impacting the quality of life in the city?"
WBC, cut out the fraud and the stealing and that will save a bunch. As dee said 'you ain't seen nothing yet' .

willie7 08/11/14 - 10:45 am
Mr. Cush, please be specific

Mr. Cush, please be specific about the fraud and stealing!
Name some frauds and people stealing!!

dichotomy 08/11/14 - 11:11 am
"Don't forget that city

"Don't forget that city government provides essential services"

WHICH THEY CHARGE US EXTRA FOR and DON'T DO VERY WELL. Water and sewer...EXTRA, Garbage......EXTRA......Fire protection......EXTRA......ditches on rural roads.....EXTRA. Now tell me again what the hell they are doing with our PROPERTY TAXES and ALL of their 4% of the SALES TAXES and the HOTEL/MOTEL TAXES. Not to mention that when you call the sheriff THEY DON'T SHOW UP...apparently RESPONDING IS OPTIONAL FOR THE OVERPAID SHERIFF. We have one of the highest millage rates in the state and MOST of our SERVICES are EXTRA.......and everybody and their COUSIN has a county job and county vehicle that they drive 25 mph between locations where they take coffee or pot smoking breaks.

And oh yeh.......we are STILL waiting for all of the "savings" that elimination of all the duplication of personnel and departments Consolidation was supposed to give us. NOT ONE DIME DID WE SAVE......ANYWHERE. And NOW we not only pay them and all of their cousins...but we also pay EXTRA FOR BASIC SERVICES.

You give me 1 WEEK with the budget and a list of departments and employees and I will save you $6 million and the county will never miss a stroke. How could they......WE PAY EXTRA FOR ALMOST EVERYTHING. We are a pay as you go for services county with the PROPERTY TAX as a SLUSH FUND.

Darby 08/11/14 - 11:41 am
Is it possible

that we may be slipping sideways into the same path that larger cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago have taken?

If so, maybe it's not to late to change direction.

Darby 08/11/14 - 12:15 pm
It's really incredibly easy

to cut taxes and run a government on a budget.

It's incredibly difficult (make that impossible) to cut taxes and run a government on a budget. IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO BE REELECTED!

If you think hard drugs are addictive, try withdrawing any government goodies that "the folks" have come to count on.

Now, if ALL government officials were limited to, for example, ONE six year term....

.....but there I go, fantasizing again.

TrulyWorried 08/11/14 - 02:08 pm
Taxes and "Services"

and don't forget the 300 plus dollars they tacked on to our tax bill for the once a week garbage pick up - that one came out of the clear blue sky.
A group of well educated and knowledgable citizens should be permitted to check all the books concerning finances in the Augusta/Richmond County government. I feel like there would be quite a few honest and disgusted folks that would love to do it for the love of our county - free - and pull out all the figures that are questionable or should not be there at all. Or is there a law that states that citizens cannot find out what is being done with their hard earned money?

RMSHEFF 08/11/14 - 07:38 pm

GET OUT OF RICHMOND COUNTY WHILE YOU CAN! This group that is running the city will only continue to raise taxes every year. There will be a different excuse each year but taxes will continue to rise just like all failing cities.

GnipGnop 08/12/14 - 09:36 pm
I have to laugh any time

I see the ACES spout off about taxes...TEE center? Parking Deck? Pot meet kettle!

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