The decisions on two tax referenda that Augusta voters make today will likely have a larger impact on their lives and pocketbooks than all the ballots they'll cast Nov. 7.
Yet the turnout for today's vote is expected to be much smaller than the general election. It may not even rise to double digits. Low turnouts are the norm for the 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax referendum, which has been approved by overwhelming margins three times.
But today could be the toughest test ever for the penny tax. This is because another referendum, a $59 million general obligation bond, would raise property taxes 1.5 mills, or about $52.50 on a $100,000 homestead exempt house.
The City Commission approved both referenda with the expectation that voters will again renew the sales tax. They also hope kind-hearted Augustans will pass the millage hike to protect their neighbors from flooding.
But this marks a cynical play on voters' emotions by a Commission that has raised taxes or fees more than a dozen times since the city-county government merger in 1996.
Recall that the promise of consolidation was to shrink government and save money. Instead, taxes have risen and the government has grown. Commissioners seek the millage hike to avoid making tough decisions. That's why we recommend voting down the general obligation bond.
The penny tax, however, serves this community well. We urge its renewal. It will fund many crucial projects, including a library. Also many projects underway would be abandoned if the tax fails.
However the balloting goes, we would like to see a heavy turnout. More than just a handful of voters should decide our community's future.
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