Augusta Commissioners Look To Property Tax Hike For 2014 Budget - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Augusta Commissioners Look To Property Tax Hike For 2014 Budget

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Making industry pay more for its power is not the play many Augusta Commissioners want to make.

State law allows manufacturers to avoid paying sales taxes on the energy they buy, Augusta uses one penny of sales tax for property tax relief.

"The state decided to do that for a reason, to attract more industry. If we attract more industry, we create more jobs," says Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson.

"I would like to see industry coming in and look at this area and hopefully stay in the area. It's called jobs, jobs, jobs," says Commissioner Grady Smith.

But in next year's budget, City Administrator Fred Russell  is banking on the excise tax to bring in $1.5 million, and says if Commissioners reject the proposal, then another source of money will be needed like a property tax increase.

"That $1.5 million is about a .3 mill increase, give or take a little bit there, so that would be an option to spread that across everybody," says Russell.

Without the excise tax, city leaders are facing a $10 million shortfall, meaning a battle is brewing between the excise tax, and a property tax increase. "It's either one or the other, I would prefer to go up one mil in property taxes. I mean, a person who owns a $100,000 home, I mean good God, 30 extra bucks a year...who couldn't afford that," says Commissioner Bill Lockett.

"If we don't do the excise tax, a property tax increase would be it. It would be across the board, everybody would participate, and we would get the amount of money we need to move forward," says Johnson.

Commissioner Grady Smith supports cuts, not a tax increase, but understands there is a move to raise property taxes. "Show me where and why we need it and how bad we need it and I'll be receptive to it. I'm not saying totally no, but I'm saying let's examine other avenues first," says Smith.

City leaders are scheduled to hold a budget work session Tuesday afternoon at three at the Augusta Commission Chambers.

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