Originally created 09/17/00

County puts tax issues before voters



Two separate referendums going before Richmond County voters Tuesday could determine whether taxpayers will spend a penny less at the cash register or a few dollars more on their property taxes - all in the name of progress.

The biggest difference between the special election to extend the special purpose local option sales tax and the previous two renewals of the 1-cent tax involves an issue that recently has been a hotbed of discussion for county residents: flooding.

Public works project lists show that more than $70 million in 1-cent sales tax proceeds have been spent to address drainage problems countywide during the past decade.

But unlike the previous three phases of the special purpose sales tax, the fourth-phase extension would fund only a fraction of work in the county's flood-prone areas. A $59 million general obligation bond has been proposed to pay for the bulk of identified drainage projects.

Both issues will be up for vote Tuesday, when the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sales tax project lists provided to The Augusta Chronicle by the Department of Public Works and Engineering show that drainage-related projects were best funded in the first phase of the sales tax, with funding decreasing steadily since.

"The sales tax funds are being allocated to other areas, but the infrastructure needs are not decreasing," said Teresa Smith, the new public works director for the county. "If the sales tax is not going to be utilized to address the infrastructure needs, another source of funding is going to have to be identified, because the needs continue to exist."

That alternative funding vehicle will go before voters in the form of a 1.5-mill property tax increase that would be used to pay for $59 million of drainage projects countywide. The millage increase, which would pay off the general obligation bond, translates into a $52.50 annual property tax increase on a $100,000 homestead exempt house.

When drainage projects are broken out from other categories of sales tax-funded work, data show that downtown Augusta has received the most money on average since the special 1-cent tax was implemented in 1987.

District 6, which encompasses much of south Richmond County and is the least-populated district, has seen the least amount of drainage dollars.

"No flooding problem can be solved, but I believe we're better prepared than when we started," District 7 Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.

If the sales tax passes and the general obligation bond doesn't, about $11 million in drainage needs would be addressed in Districts 1, 3 and 5 - the districts that historically have received the most funding for flood-related improvements.

The five remaining districts - 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 - would not receive any funding.

But the general obligation bond paired with the sales tax extension would fund nearly half of the $180 million in identified drainage projects countywide.

Both the sales tax and the bond issue have their supporters and detractors.

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and Citizens for Progress have announced support for the sales tax. Richmond County Pride & Progress is marketing the general obligation bond with a targeted mailer to homes in the flood plain.

"It's just something that needs to be fixed," said Jimmy Smith, founder of the Pride & Progress Committee, a group of residents and business leaders primarily from south Augusta. "Nobody wants to raise taxes .ƒ.ƒ. it's a very unpopular decision and we realize that, but that's why we decided to come out for it."

And the Richmond County Republican Party, which announced its opposition to both the bond and the sales tax extension last weekend, thinks the sales tax should pay for the $70 million of drainage repairs and the bond should be eliminated.

"We think that it's unfair to put the drainage projects all on the shoulders and pocketbooks of property owners when (the special purpose local option sales tax) was designed for that purpose," said David Barbee, chairman of the local Republican Party.

"What we're saying is, hold on, let's stop it now and come back and reprioritize our list of projects and we will be with you to pass this in 2001."

Richmond County precincts

The following is a list of polling precincts and their locations for Tuesday's referendum in Richmond County:

1A: Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 3185 Wheeler Road

1B: Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 3185 Wheeler Road

2: American Legion Post, Richmond Hill Road at Windsor Spring Road

3: Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2028 Roosevelt Drive

4: Bayvale Baptist Church, 2240 Bayvale Road

5A: Belle Terrace Community Center, 2456 Golden Camp Road

5B: Belle Terrace Community Center, 2456 Golden Camp Road

6: Bernie Ward Community Center, 1925 Lumpkin Road

7: New Hope Community Center, 1336 Conklin Ave.

8: Blythe Community Center, Georgia Highway 88

9A: Asbury Methodist Church, 1305 Troupe St.

9B: Asbury Methodist Church, 1305 Troupe St.

10: Central Christian Church, 220 Crawford Ave.

11A: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 3131 Walton Way

11B: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 3131 Walton Way

12: Dyess Park, 902 D'Antignac St.

13: Eastview Recreation Center, 644 Aiken St.

14A: Augusta State University Athletic Complex, 3109 Wrightsboro Road

14B: Augusta State University Athletic Complex, 3109 Wrightsboro Road

15A: First Baptist Church of Gracewood, 3633 U.S. Highway 25 near Tobacco Road

15B: First Baptist Church of Gracewood, 3633 U.S. Highway 25 near Tobacco Road

16: Corinth Baptist Church, Georgia Highway 56 near Clark Road

17: Fleming Baptist Church, 3027 Peach Orchard Road

18A: Gilbert Manor Rental Office

18B: Gilbert Manor Rental Office

19: Glendale Bible Chapel, 2011 Randall Road

20: Gracewood Community Center, Tobacco Road

21A: Augusta Aquatics Center, 3157 Damascus Road

21B: Augusta Aquatics Center, 3157 Damascus Road

22A: Jamestown Community Center, New Karleen Road

22B: Jamestown Community Center, New Karleen Road

23: Jesse Carroll Community, 4681 Windsor Spring Road

24A: Johnson Recreation Center, 1694 Hunter St.

24B: Johnson Recreation Center, 1694 Hunter St.

25A: Julian Smith Casino, 2200 Broad St.

25B: Julian Smith Casino, 2200 Broad St.

26: Lake Park Baptist Church, 211 Milledge Road

27A: Langford Middle School, 3019 Walton Way

27B: Langford Middle School, 3019 Walton Way

28: Lumpkin Road Baptist Church, 2540 Lumpkin Road

29: Ascension Lutheran Church, 2860 Wells Drive

30: First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2204 Kimberly Drive

31: May Park Recreation Center, 622 Fourth St.

32A: McDuffie Woods Community Center, off Barton Chapel Road

32B: McDuffie Woods Community Center, off Barton Chapel Road

33: Meadowbrook Baptist Church, 2723 Meadowbrook Road

34: Minnick Park, 1850 Kissingbower Road

35: Morgan Road Middle School, 3635 Hiers Road

36: Mount Calvary Baptist Church, 1260 Wrightsboro Road

37: Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 1930 Olive Road

38: National Hills Baptist Church, 2725 Washington Road

39: Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road

40: New Horizon Church of God, 1800 Windsor Spring Road at Louisville Road

41: Southside Baptist Church, 3612 Mike Padgett Highway

42: Peabody Apartments, 1425 Walton Way

43: Pine Hill Baptist Church, 4233 Old Waynesboro Road

44: Gilbert Lambuth Chapel, 1404 Brown St.

45: Second Mount Moriah Baptist Church, 2367 Washington Road

46: Silvercrest Baptist Church, 3431 Peach Orchard Road

47: Newberry Baptist Church, 2420 Norfolk St. off Georgia Highway 56

48: St. John's Towers, 724 Greene St.

49: St. Marks United Methodist Church, 2367 Washington Road

50: Sue Reynolds Community Center, Buck Road off Maddox Road

51: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 649, Veterans Drive off Windsor Spring Road

52: Walton Way Extension Fire Department, across from First Baptist Church

53: Warren Road Recreation Center, 300 Warren Road

54: Westside High School, 1002 Patriots Way

55A: Wildwood Christian Church, 2627 Tobacco Road

55B: Wildwood Christian Church, 2627 Tobacco Road

56: Woodlawn Methodist Church, 2220 Walton Way

57A: First Baptist Church, 3500 Walton Way

57B: First Baptist Church, 3500 Walton Way

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.