Originally created 11/07/02

Kolb pushes new tax increase



City Administrator George Kolb's 2003 city budget asks Augusta commissioners to approve another slight property tax increase next year to pay for programs such as an office of economic development, the increased cost of prisoners and public works programs that keep the streets clean.

But after a first look at the proposed city spending plan, commissioners said they didn't see themselves supporting any new tax increases. Instead, they said they will spend coming weeks looking for budget cuts in an effort to avoid back-to-back tax increases.

"People are upset about the tax increase this year, and here we are back again talking about another (quarter-mill) increase," Commissioner Bobby Hankerson said. "There are a lot of things in this budget that I don't think are going to fly."

Commissioners approved a 1.735-mill increase last year to pay for rising public safety costs.

Mr. Kolb's plan this year proposes a general fund budget of $55.7 million - $1.7 million more than last year, or 2.8 percent higher. The proposed law enforcement budget for next year is $44.3 million, which is $1 million more than the budget from 2002.

The budget proposal includes a five-year capital improvement plan that presents several new construction projects, including a new coliseum, library, jails, performing arts center and city hall building.

Commissioners are scheduled to hold two days of budget workshops this weekend at the Julian Smith Casino. Talks are starting several weeks earlier this year compared with past years because commissioners want a completed spending plan by the end of the month.

Mr. Kolb's budget proposes a 0.242-mill increase to generate an additional $1 million in city revenue to pay for programs such as storm drainage maintenance and increased attention to Riverwalk Augusta and the Augusta Common park.

"You should have a tax increase each year - a small one - so you don't have the kind of tax increase we had this year," Mr. Kolb said.

Without a tax increase, he said, the commission will have to vote for government layoffs or a reduction in services, he said.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.