Drop in Columbia County 1-cent tax raises concerns

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When speaking at public events, Columbia County commissioners often ask residents to shop within the county, pointing out more local spending means more sales tax money for road, water and recreation projects.

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Charlie Murray shops for plants at the Lowe's in Evans. Columbia County officials say their special purpose local option sales tax collections for the past month were down compared to the same month a year ago. Officials are keeping an eye on the decline.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Charlie Murray shops for plants at the Lowe's in Evans. Columbia County officials say their special purpose local option sales tax collections for the past month were down compared to the same month a year ago. Officials are keeping an eye on the decline.

Over the past year-and-a-half, residents appeared to heed the advice, as county sales tax figures have averaged more than $1 million a month since January 2006.

A recent dip, however, has officials watching. June's figures - the latest available - showed a decrease of $92,497 in 1-cent sales tax collections compared with the same month a year ago. Commissioners say they're not worried about one month, but they'll stay alert.

"We expect little slumps," said Commissioner Tommy Mercer. "If the trend keeps going that way, three or four months, you know, I'm going to get a little concerned about it."

Each month, commissioners are updated on the latest figures by Leanne DeLoach, the county's finance director, who noted the June drop in the her latest report.

In June, the county collected $1,342,265 in sales tax. In June 2006, $1,434,762 in sales tax was registered.

Sales tax figures are important in helping the county construct projects without a tax increase. Sales tax projections for the next year also will help the county determine its budget, a process beginning in February, commission Chairman Ron Cross said.

Sales tax collections had been steadily increasing until about four months ago. They went from $1,691,643 in April to $1,554,207 in May before falling again in June. In 2006, collections dropped from April to May but not from May to June.

Commissioners have already said that the 2006-10 sales tax program, approved by voters in July 2004, won't be enough to take care of all of the county's pressing needs. Officials are talking about asking voters by as early as next year to approve another sales tax program to run from 2011 to 2015.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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JimCox
7
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JimCox 09/25/07 - 04:34 am
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Check new and used car sales

Check new and used car sales at Columbia County dealerships for 2007 against 2006 data and you will most likely find a large part of the answer as to why tax collections are down.

Chuchi
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Chuchi 09/25/07 - 04:47 am
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Columbia County should do

Columbia County should do something to make the area attractive to tourists/visitors so they will spend lots of cash there. That would mean less taxes imposed upon the residents but more local benefits for the same residents. Augusta/Richmond County ought to do the same thing: make the area a draw for outside dollars. When the commissioner (was it Cheek? I forgot) suggested that the canal and the downtown area be turned into a San Antonio-like attraction, I thought that was an interesting idea. He was thinking in the right direction and I hope they can make something like that work. If Columbia County did the same thing they would have no worries about money for roads, schools, etc. Maybe CC can lead the way for this area in that respect.

Little Lamb
49084
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Little Lamb 09/25/07 - 06:46 am
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Is the Chronicle too lazy to

Is the Chronicle too lazy to provide a simple graph showing the trend in Columbia County sales tax collections over the past five years or so?

CD1962
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CD1962 09/25/07 - 07:53 am
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When buying a car the

When buying a car the dealerships pay taxes based on the county in which the person lives. So anyone from Columbia county that goes to Richmond county to buy a car will still cause Columbia county to get the proper sales tax dollars.

Dixieman
17408
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Dixieman 09/25/07 - 09:22 am
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Columbia County politicians

Columbia County politicians STILL don't get it! We moved here for SMALLER gov't, not tax increases. Just like the stupid recycling program they are trying to ram down our throats. If they keep this up, let's vote them out!

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 09/25/07 - 09:30 am
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Columbia County a tourist

Columbia County a tourist destination? Not! I can see some potential with the lake but with the drastic fluctuations in water levels.. it's not always very picturesque or accomodating to tourist. Plus the corps of engineers makes it very difficult to develop a large scale resort at the lake. As for the rest of Columbia County.. it is mostly just suburban sprawl... Big Box stores, chain restaurants, generic subdivisions.. etc. Commissioners have seen fit to allow developers free reign and destroy much of the qauint rural charm of Columbia COunty. HOpefully the north end and west end of the county can be preserved, but with this lot running the government, I doubt it.

TrukinRanger
1748
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TrukinRanger 09/25/07 - 11:05 am
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The "tourists" can always go
Unpublished

The "tourists" can always go and look at the nice boatramps at Wildwood Park. The entire boatramp--- since they're not in the water!

Concerned Teach
0
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Concerned Teach 09/25/07 - 03:26 pm
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Graphs?? HAHA .. I don't know

Graphs?? HAHA .. I don't know if anyone at teh Chronicle even knows what those are.. hahahaha

gnx
7
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gnx 09/25/07 - 05:11 pm
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If the commissioners would

If the commissioners would stop spending tax and bond dollars before they're even collected then they'd find they have plenty of money available for actual county needs (not wants). Funding a new golf course community and paying out big bucks on feasibility studies for idiotic projects like dead exotic animal shrines aren't exactly what I'd call smart spending. Wasn't it just a few months ago Ron Cross was quoted in the AC as saying the increase in sales tax revenues [brought in by all the new retailers] would be more than sufficient to cover tax needs and even allow for property taxes to remain the same if not less? As someone who was hit with a nearly 35% increase in property taxes this year the prospect of paying an additional 1% sales tax to cover the commissioners' inability to budget wisely is not appealing.

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