Tax rollback is considered

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Most Augusta commissioners favor rolling back to taxpayers some, but not all, of the additional unexpected $2 million the city will receive from the growth of the 2007 Richmond County property tax digest.

And that means you'll probably see only a small increase on this year's tax bill.

Commissioners said they want to use the additional money to replenish the emergency reserve fund and fill essential vacant positions in public works frozen to balance this year's general-fund budget. Then they would consider reducing the 0.34-mill tax increase built into the budget.

"If we could make a rollback and feel comfortable and not have to go into our reserves if something catastrophic happened, I would be for that," said Commissioner Don Grantham. "But we need to start rebuilding our reserves."

The assessed (40 percent) value of taxable property in Richmond County rose from $4.59 billion last year to $4.86 billion this year, Chief Tax Appraiser Calvin Hicks announced Monday.

Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard agreed that commissioners need to replenish the reserve fund. She also doesn't want to roll back taxes as was done last year, only to end up with a budget shortfall that led to cutbacks this year.

Neither does Commissioner Andy Cheek, who thinks the money should be used for the upkeep of the Garden City.

"I would like to see us in a position to maintain our roads and ditches," he said. "Public works and trees and landscaping have been suffering under the hiring freeze. I'd like to see us staff those positions."

Mr. Cheek said commissioners need to decide whether they're going to take care of the city and make it a place people want to come to or let it become a second-rate city.

"I'm not committed to anything right now, but I think it's stupid to continue to understaff important positions for maintenance of roads and drainage," he said. "We're going to eventually have a tropical event, and we're going to have flooding because we have not been able to maintain the ditches."

Commissioner Joe Bowles wants to see the final numbers plugged into the budget to see where the city stands and make sure there's enough money to cover key services and replenish the reserve fund.

"And the rest, I think we ought to give back to taxpayers," he said.

But some money needs to go to maintain entrances to the city, such as Interstate 20 and Washington Road, which are in a "deplorable" condition, he said.

Commissioner Bernard Harper also wants to see all the numbers before committing to anything, but said his first instinct is to roll back property taxes.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Marion Williams are at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as where the additional money should go.

"I'm in favor of a rollback," Mr. Brigham said. "I don't know whether all of it will be rolled back, but I fully expect part of it to be rolled back, and that's the way I will vote."

"I wouldn't want to roll anything back," Mr. Williams said. "When you roll back, you've got to turn around the next year and increase taxes. I think we ought to hold on to it and do something to encourage people to come into Augusta. We need to do some economic development that will increase our revenue."

Commissioner Calvin Holland said he just wants to make sure commissioners do what's best for the community.

The 6 percent growth in this year's tax digest follows several years of sluggish growth.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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MyOpinion2
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MyOpinion2 06/13/07 - 07:57 am
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For once I agree with Mr.

For once I agree with Mr. Williams.

MJDW
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MJDW 06/13/07 - 08:42 am
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Maybe if Marin Williams paid

Maybe if Marin Williams paid his taxes all of Richmond County tax payers could see that roll back. And where does a man that will not pay his taxes have a right to say where our tax dollars should go!

work for a living
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work for a living 06/13/07 - 10:32 am
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The property owners are the

The property owners are the ones that should get the roll back considering they are the ones that brought in the funds to start with. None in anyway should go to non property owners. All of it, I question. Talk about roads being in deplorable condition, apparently those that road down Washington Road and I-20 haven't been down the old part of Gordon Hwy area lately or along Bobby Jones entrances and overpasses. They look like the city dump. Those are major thoroughfares through the city and why would anyone want to stop off of one of them. I would be afraid to because the condition you see at the overpass gives the impression of what to expect when you get off. Bobby Jones at these entranceses needs to be cleaned up. Tear out all of that garbage brush around the overpasses. This road gives the first impression to a lot of people of what our city is. A DUMP. Look how attractive the entrance to the Palmetto Parkway on the South Carolina/Aiken Augusta Hwy is/ nice trees planted and such. Clean up the dump and they will come!

lawdogg33
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lawdogg33 06/13/07 - 11:07 am
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Mr. Williams wants to

Mr. Williams wants to encourage people to come to Augusta? That is easy Mr. Williams, quit!!!! or don't rerun for the commision and I promise, people will come.

alsharptonisthebest
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alsharptonisthebest 06/13/07 - 06:37 pm
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mr. williams got the james

mr. williams got the james brown statue downtown, wants to add lights & songs, he wanted the drag strip, a james brown museum, a upscale hotel downtown by the water, turn the regency mall into a comedy house & hard rock cafe. White ppl dont like any black men who isnt a thug that is educated & can speak cleary thats doesnt just sit there while whites run the city . White ppl have always been afraid of educated black men thats why they killed martin luther king. Can you tell me one proposal don grantham came up with. Im sorry but all the white ppl in the commission, except deke & joe bowles, maybe andy cheek when he doesnt want to be racist needs to be fired. But the rest especially don grantham needs to go they are what is holding augusta back mainly due to race. Once again spending our tax money on washington rd the only street in augusta, ppl who live in martinez, especially evans talk bad about this city why do we care if washington rd is nice. I want my tax money to fix up gordon hwy, deans bridge, peach orchard, oops i'm sorry i guess these areas are black not white, we could never spend black ppl tax money in their own area. We have to spend it on washington rd its more white

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