The battle over how much you will pay for streetlights continues. Many of you are waiting to know how much you will owe at the end of the year and you will have to keep waiting until the commission meeting on Tuesday.
After months of discussions, Augusta leaders called a special meeting for Thursday, Augusta 23rd to knock out the plans for the future, but the debate lives on.
“Timeline is today,” City Administrator Janice Jackson told commissioners on Thursday. Jackson says she has asked for extra time for the last time. However, once again, the topic was tabled. This time, largely because there were not enough commissioners at the meeting.
“There are insufficient votes.” Mayor Hardie Davis said when he proposed waiting to make a decision.
Of the 10 commissioners, 6 were in the room and Sammie Sias on the phone.
“When you have something that needs 6 votes and I think we may have had 7 there today. I knew that was going to be tough,” Jackson said after the meeting.
Commissioner Bill Fennoy says he is “very disappointed” a resolution was not met on Thursday.
“Like I said earlier, the streetlights are here. The Streetlights are on. The streetlights have to be paid for. We are running a deficit,” Fennoy explains.
There were some heavy sighs from city employees marking their frustration in Thursday’s meeting.
Members of the finance department, engineering department and Tax Commissioner’s office all want to get a decision on the books.
Time is running out for Tax Commissioner Steve Kendrick to make changes to the tax digest he sends to the state.
“Tax payers get kind of anxious at this time of year. They want to know what they owe. They have 60 days to pay in November. That doesn’t change and the earlier I can get them to them, the more time they have to pay,” says Kendrick.
The City Administrator presented three options on Thursday. “There were 2 fee increases that they considered as well as a third option of just taking the money out of our fund balance,” says Jackson.
The options were as follows:
- Homeowners pay $87 and business owners pay $13 This option takes care of the deficit and the future.
- A $23 increase to what you pay now for a home and $35 more for your business. This takes care of the deficit, but does not handle the future.
- Take $1.8 million from the city’s fund including dipping into what the administrator calls “rainy day money” set aside for catastrophic circumstances.
The final option, Jackson says is a last result. “Our accountants probably wouldn’t be pleased to see that we are doing that, but by the same token, they aren’t pleased that we are running at a deficit in this fund and that’s why we feel like we have to address it somehow.”
The City Administrator points out 10 years have passed since the last streetlight fee change. The cost to keep the lights on has gone up and that is why an increase in fees is needed.
If commissioners cannot decide on a change to the current structure during Tuesday’s commission meeting, you will pay the same amount you paid last year, which does nothing for the $800,000 deficit that continues to grow. If commissioners make no changes to the streetlight fees, the issue persists and it becomes next year’s problem.