School board raises property taxes

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Richmond County taxpayers dodged one financial bullet Monday but took another.

If you own a $100,000 home in Richmond County, your property taxes will increase $18.78 in 2009.  Staff
Staff
If you own a $100,000 home in Richmond County, your property taxes will increase $18.78 in 2009.

Augusta commissioners voted 7-2 to put the brakes on a proposal to raise property taxes. But a few hours later, the school board raised property taxes as high as possible in a 5-2 vote.

The result is that the owner of a $100,000 Richmond County home will pay $18.78 more in property taxes in 2009. The city had wanted to increase taxes by $24.68 on the same $100,000 home, but commissioners voted against it.

The school board's increase did not sit well with some of those at Monday's meeting.

"I think what we need to do here is to find ways to cut the cost of what we're spending, not to keep adding on to the taxpayers' burden," Frank Williams, an Augusta resident, told board members. "It's already too much."

Superintendent Dana Bedden explained the process he and his staff went through to offset a $13.4 million shortfall brought on by a state-mandated pay raise for certified employees, declining enrollment and "skyrocketing" energy costs.

Dr. Bedden requested the tax increase, which is expected to generate about $5 million in revenue, after reducing the central office by 31 positions, cutting 17 teaching positions, halting all out-of-town travel from the general fund and digging into the reserves for $7.5 million.

Board President Jimmy Atkins and Vice President Joe Scott, both of whom are facing re-election, voted against raising taxes. Absent were Finance Chairman Frank Dolan, Marion Barnes and Barbara Pulliam.

The city also faced increased costs, including the prices of food and gas, in its request to raise taxes. The motion failed, with commissioners Jimmy Smith and Don Grantham voting in favor. Commissioner Joe Jackson was not present.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the city needed the extra revenue and was visibly upset with the commission's vote.

"You're making a mistake, because you're not looking far enough ahead," he told commissioners during the meeting. "This part is easy, but the hard part comes in October when we have to fill the holes."

Maintaining the current tax rate will require the city to use the $5.1 million surplus from 2007 taxes, and still leave a deficit of more than $343,000 in the budget, said city financial director Donna Williams.

"I think the decision will force us to cut expenses in other budgets," she said.

Taxpayers spoke out against a property tax increase in a public hearing held before the called meeting.

Many asked for relief from the raises they have experienced over the past three years.

After hearing their concerns, Commissioner J.R. Hatney said he had to vote to keep the tax rate the same.

"I do believe we can get by without a tax increase," he said. "We have to have good financial planning. That's better than raising taxes."

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (54) Add comment
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dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 07/29/08 - 04:04 am
0
0
3 members of the school board
Unpublished

3 members of the school board were not present so you can take that as a yes vote to raise taxes. If it was not important enough to show up and vote then I guess you don't want to oppose raising taxes. Augustans need to vote these people
out of office, case closed!

im2kraz
0
Points
im2kraz 07/29/08 - 05:18 am
0
0
Makes sense to me. Lets give

Makes sense to me. Lets give the schools more money to continue to do a poor job as evidenced by the test scores this year. I understand needing more money...so do I. But if I want more, my performance has to be such to deserve it. There should be some sort of checks and balances to get more money. I don't agree with the mandatory pay raise for teachers and administrators. They should not be rewarded for poor performance any more than their students that aren't promoted for poor test scores.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 07/29/08 - 05:48 am
0
0
With two entities raising

With two entities raising taxes without showing improved performance sure makes Augusta Richmond County look attractive to investors. I guess the school board will restrain itself while the county commissioners raise property taxes next time. Very well coordinated.

Anna2008
0
Points
Anna2008 07/29/08 - 05:53 am
0
0
How about that increase taxes

How about that increase taxes and decrease performance. How can they vote for increase on taxes when three members were absent? What is happening down at the board? Any ideas???

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 07/29/08 - 06:04 am
0
0
Ever thought that maybe the 3

Ever thought that maybe the 3 Board Members may have had family emergencies or were simply not available?

Interested Citizen
0
Points
Interested Citizen 07/29/08 - 06:08 am
0
0
And they just hired a

And they just hired a spokesperson for the Superintendent. Evidently he can't speak........sounds like Dr. Lark.

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 07/29/08 - 06:19 am
0
0
Family emergency ok, but we

Family emergency ok, but we pay the commissioners to be available. If you were not "available" for your job, what would happen?

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 07/29/08 - 06:26 am
0
0
If I had a family emergency,

If I had a family emergency, either my job would allow me to be absent, or I will find another job. My point is we do not know why they where not there, or if they knew this was up to a vote. I guess none of you ever missed a day at work.

happy
0
Points
happy 07/29/08 - 06:34 am
0
0
They have cut teaching

They have cut teaching positions which is going to make the class size larger. They are also building a new middle school in South Augusta( even though enrollment is down). They have not cut any positions at the top. As far as I can tell they just gave a new name to their positions. Is it true Dr. Bedden got a raise? The raise for the teachers is state mandated. Someone is paying to rent the Bell Auditorium and pay for a speaker the first day the teachers go back.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/29/08 - 06:37 am
0
0
10 total RCBOE members, 3

10 total RCBOE members, 3 absent, and 2 voting to make sure they get re-elected this fall. Sure a confidence booster!

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/29/08 - 06:38 am
0
0
Typical AC reporting. Mix the

Typical AC reporting. Mix the RCBOE and A-RC Commission to confuse the readers of the article.

happy
0
Points
happy 07/29/08 - 06:44 am
0
0
You can not place all the

You can not place all the blame on the teachers for the students not passing. I know some students didn't even try, they don't bring books, paper and pencils to class. They just don't care and they know they are going to be promoted regardless. It is threefold, teacher, student and parent. When only 1/3 is doing their part it isn't going to work. Each case is individual, but stop blaming the teachers for everything. Free tutoring was offered by agencies and students did not take advantage of this. Teachers offered extra help and students did not come. You can lead a horse to water but you can not make them drink. If you don't do what your Dr. tells you it is not because of his poor performance it is your fault. It is the same with students. Why should they care if they know they are going to be promoted to the next grade ? Social promotion is alive and well !

onlynaugusta
41
Points
onlynaugusta 07/29/08 - 06:49 am
0
0
If you ask my opinion, RCBOE

If you ask my opinion, RCBOE is a hot mess. Why cut teachers and raise taxes. I don't understand who makes these dumb decisions. Look at the CRT test scores. Cutting the amount of teaching positions are the last thing any child who attends public school in richmond county needs. Hint: A duplication of Dr. Larke. I must agree with Jerry Springer......Where do they find THESE people?

I4PUTT
5
Points
I4PUTT 07/29/08 - 07:03 am
0
0
Stop state mandated raises.

Stop state mandated raises. If counties can't afford them. the only way to give them is to raise taxes. The county has to be able to manage it's budget. Stop the school breakfast program. Parents should care for their kids well being enough to get up with them and cook 25 cents worth of hot cereal. Freeze hiring at board office. If we can't afford it . we can't have it. Close the schools as recommended. Sell off any property not being used. These steps will allow the county to balance it's budget without increasing our taxes.

friefighterhammer
0
Points
friefighterhammer 07/29/08 - 07:12 am
0
0
As I said last week, smiling

As I said last week, smiling faces tell lies. Larke, bedden-- bedden, larke no difference. If you have six schools need closing, close them. Bedden get rid of your spokesperson are you the pres? AND, as Putt said it so well, if you cant afford it, you don't need it. He hammer, have you ever thought the three members who failed to show aren't worth a crap and need voting out of office?

friefighterhammer
0
Points
friefighterhammer 07/29/08 - 07:15 am
0
0
Hamer, grasping for straws

Hamer, grasping for straws aren't you????? "Might not have know it was up for vote, family emergency"!!!! Grasping for straws aren't you?

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 07/29/08 - 07:26 am
0
0
Yes, it is called my opinion,

Yes, it is called my opinion, just like yours. Unlike some I believe in knowing facts first before judging the situation.

mojo
0
Points
mojo 07/29/08 - 07:29 am
0
0
Was there ever any doubt this

Was there ever any doubt this group would raise taxes? It's a decades old Augusta government policy - raise taxes and ignore the steps which should be taken.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/29/08 - 07:33 am
0
0
Concerned Citizen, EVIDENTLY

Concerned Citizen, EVIDENTLY you haven't heard Dana Bedden speak. As a matter of fact, from oratorical as well as motivational perspectives, Dr. Bedden is no Dr. Larke.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/29/08 - 07:59 am
0
0
Craig Spinks: EVIDENTLY you

Craig Spinks: EVIDENTLY you do not understand sarcasm.

MJDW
0
Points
MJDW 07/29/08 - 08:02 am
0
0
Leave my property alone,

Leave my property alone, let's see the sales tax go up for all to pay. Maybe I'll seal my home and get one of them Section 8 vouchers.

friefighterhammer
0
Points
friefighterhammer 07/29/08 - 08:02 am
0
0
obama is no carter, but

obama is no carter, but liberal ideas, policies, and socialistic thoughts are the same. Craig, why do you believe the good dr needs a spokesperson!

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 07/29/08 - 08:07 am
0
0
Happy and Iputt, I agree with

Happy and Iputt, I agree with both your posts. You should see some of the people that come to my business and ask for a job. Hair to their shoulders, ear rings in their ears and can not speak English is a proper fashion. Just a hood mentality that is absolutely repulsive. What were the parents doing while these children were in their learning stages and what were they teaching them. They have lost before they start. All the money in the world will not help if parents do not take an interest.

BarstoolDreamer
19
Points
BarstoolDreamer 07/29/08 - 08:10 am
0
0
I just hope one day the

I just hope one day the schools have to have a bomber sale to by some baked goods....wait, is that right?

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 07/29/08 - 08:10 am
0
0
everyone say it out

everyone say it out loud....FOR THE CHILDREN!!!!! until the parents are forced to do their part you are going to continue to have this problem. if there is free tutoring available and the students fail to take advantage of it and they do not come school prepared they need to be held back and if they are old enuff then they need to be kicked out of school instead of taking up space valuable teacher time and money that could be used to help a child who truly wants to be educated and wants to learn. by taking this approach valuable resources will not be wasted to reach those who don't want to learn by the development of another "program, for the children" and the poor property owner could be given a break...but wait again i forget as the "esteemed former educator" now school board member ms. venus cain said: "IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN"

dadgethiskids
0
Points
dadgethiskids 07/29/08 - 08:11 am
0
0
Please understand that just

Please understand that just like every family in RC everybody is paying more for less. The people I feel for are the families in west Richmond County, who once again, are paying more than their fair share!
I hope that Columbia, Burke and Aiken Counties can make room for some new citizens.

Concerned Teach
0
Points
Concerned Teach 07/29/08 - 08:32 am
0
0
Oh how easy it is for all the

Oh how easy it is for all the Monday morning quarterbacks we have here. It is so easy to sit there in your home, drinking your coffee, and yet, not have a clue on the bureaucracy crap that the administration has to put up with. All legal issues that come into play, the State mandated policies, the federal policies.. It's easy to speak of getting rid of all of central office, or to just close a school, but until you've sat in the chair, and have to make the hard calls, you really don't know. I know the people who work for the school system, and I see employee's who really do work hard for your children in this county. I don't like higher taxes any more than any of you, in fact I HATE taxes all together, but I understand it's a necessary evil. Give the School System a chance, cut em a little slack, you can't turn an air craft carrier on a dime, and the county has a large ship to turn around from past mistakes. Considering everything involved in running a school system of this size, you need to give the system time and a chance to change for the overall improvement of the system to serve the citizens of the county.

Captain Awesome
0
Points
Captain Awesome 07/29/08 - 08:33 am
0
0
It's not as if the super

It's not as if the super intendant didn't make any changes. He eliminated a bunch of positions, is selling off property (which should have been sold years ago!) and is looking to close some schools!

Don't you think teaching future Augusta residents how to read, function and think critically is a worthwhile investment????

Signal Always
3
Points
Signal Always 07/29/08 - 08:46 am
0
0
This is why the government

This is why the government fails at EVERYTHING. They're rewarded for their failures.

backdapack
2
Points
backdapack 07/29/08 - 08:51 am
0
0
Dolan can't even show up? Are

Dolan can't even show up? Are you kidding me? I guess that shows where he puts the business of schools on his priority list. I thought the board was going to be run like a business with people like Alex Howard and Dolan on board. Not true.

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