It was the plan to pay for renovations of the entire Augusta Municipal Building by issuing bonds, but some feel it's a plan to raise property taxes.
"If we approve the bonds, then we have obligated the Commission to levy a tax increase if SPLOST fails. I don't know if that was the will of the Commission," says former Augusta Mayor Bob Young, who is one of five members of the Urban Redevelopment Agency.
The Agency, appointed by Augsuta Commissioners, has to sign off on issuing bonds for the work.
Last year, Commissioners were willing to pay for renovating the building by issuing $28 million in bonds, and last month, the Commission approved using money from the next phase of the SPLOST to pay off the bonds.
"But, in two months, if we have a SPLOST vote...if that fails, what is the Commission contemplating to pay back these bonds, are we forcing them into a tax increase," questions Young.
Commissioner Alvin Mason made the motion last year to approve issuing the bonds. "Commissioner, did you understand what you were voting on a year ago?" we asked Mason. "Not completely. As you know, as it works on this Commission, we were handed a plethora of paperwork at the last minute," said Mason.
Instead of approving the bonds Friday, the Urban Redevelopment Agency voted to meet with Commissioners Tuesday to get a handle on what Commissioners had in mind when approving the bonds sale a year ago.
"So, you're saying the Commissioners did not know what they were voting on?" we asked Young. "I'm not saying that, George, don't put those words in my mouth. What I'm saying is the Commission didn't fully understand what they've done," said Young.
"There were a lot of insinuations and assumptions we could do if SPLOST didn't pass, so my thing is let's get some clarity, let's make sure all Commissioners understand where the repayment will come from if SPLOST does not pass," said Mason.
Something both Young and Mason say they support would be holding off issuing the bonds until after the May 20th primary and the fate of SPLOST is decided. But, that's something Augusta Finance Department officials are warning against, saying it would lead to shutting down work on the Municipal Building, and getting started again at a later time would increase costs by $1.5 million to $2 million.
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