HomeOpinionColumn: The ugly truth about local property tax increases

Column: The ugly truth about local property tax increases

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Richmond County government wants to shift blame by saying property tax increases are due to inflation. Inflation is the justification, not the cause.

Property taxes are going up because of government spending. The county only has to generate enough revenue to cover what it spends. Out-of-control spending in the last few years in particular have made the property tax increase necessary. 

Rather than raising the millage rate, which is politically unpopular, the government increases the property’s assessed value and blames inflation for the increase. Either way, residents get a tax increase, and the increase pays for increased government spending.

Last year, I wrote three columns about property taxes and how they are a larger burden on renters than homeowners. I hate to say, “I told you so,” but these tax increases could have been avoided if Richmond County had reduced spending.

Richmond County has an affordable housing crisis. No comprehensive solutions have been proposed that will tackle the problem. The ugly truth that nobody wants to admit is that the local government exacerbated the problem with out-of-control spending, leading to property tax increases.

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On August 9, 2021, my column titled “Property Tax Increases Hurt Apartment Renters Most” explained that for every dollar local government raises property taxes, landlords go up on tenants rent. Government officials then blame landlords and want to try and regulate how much rent can be charged, all the while failing to realize that they caused the problem. Every dollar that property taxes, stormwater fees and utilities increase landlords must recapture by going up on tenant’s rent. To make matters worse, interest rates are on the rise, which has a similar impact on the debit side. Tenants are the casualties who get stuck paying the increase and suffer the most. The tax increases make the affordable housing crisis worse.

On Oct. 11, 2021, I wrote the column “Government Spending is One Cause of Affordable Housing Crisis“.  Former City Administrator Odie Donald II brought tax and spend policies with him from Atlanta. The result was an inflated budget that was just under a billion dollars. That size budget is sustainable under the then-current tax base. Donald assured everyone there was no tax increase with his budget. Residents of Richmond County are now aware of the ruse after getting their new assessments in the mail. 

Even if the budget is balanced with all of the federal dollars flowing from COVID relief, all of the payroll increases, new positions, departmental budget increases and new will have to be paid for by additional property tax increases in the coming years.

Every dollar that the former administrator committed Augusta to spend will have to be paid for, and the majority of that burden is going to get passed along to renters.

Probably the most controversial article I have written was related to the Coliseum Authority’s plan for a new arena. Written on Nov. 1, 2021, just a day before the vote, the article was titled “Majority of New Arena Cost Will Be Paid By Renters and Businesses.” I received more feedback, both positive and negative, on that article than any written last year.

While I am still in favor of a new arena downtown, had the vote gone differently, it would have resulted in even higher property tax bills for Richmond County residents.

With a new leadership being elected, I hope that spending will get back under control and the commission will come up with a plan to reduce the property tax burden that is saddling so many Richmond County residents.

Joe Edge is the publisher for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

14 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think anyone has the answers, but they better find the wasted money on employees they are throwing away so they can spend more on taking care of the facalities Augusta owns like parks, communitiy centers, etc. because everything in augusta is falling into disrepair just like the Boathouse, Lake Omstead Stadium, even Diamond Lakes bathrooms. This city is becoming one big joke! We can expect to be the 5th largest city in Georgia within 8 years.

    • Has anyone noticed the shrubs covering the murals at the Augusta Water Works on Highland Avenue. Taxpayers paid for the beautiful murals and now the area is not being maintained . Just like our parks and other local areas. Why??

  2. Augusta is in the process of bankrupting itself. A mayor whose office went from approximately $175,000. to half a million, yup -$500,000., Covid money (free wheeling spending – still waiting for an accounting of shot gift cards) which is only temporary, increased wages for all – Didn’t anyone see someone will have to pay for all of this? Nothing is free.

  3. When I turned 65, my plan was to continue paying the portion of my property taxes that pay for public education — about 60% overall. Not anymore. I have this exemption status now, and my tax bill is very reasonable. I do not trust our local government as a whole. I believe in accountability, and I understand that a few of our TEN commissioners are fiscally conservative and concerned about responsible management of our tax dollars, but the FEW cannot compete with the MANY. It’s sad. Mr. Edge, when our esteemed elected commission votes, why not list their names and how each one votes. It’s knowledge that is open to the public, isn’t it?

  4. Odie Donald’s parting comments are going to ring true – when asked how ARC will pay for all the “supplements” to salaries – not raises – Odie said – Not my problem – I won’t be here. There is going to be financial reckoning when American Rescue Plan funds run out. Not many people working for ARC who received the “Supplement” to their salary to go to $15 and hour will want to hang around when the salary reverts back to $11 or $12 per hour. Going to be interesting.

  5. June 21 is rapidly approaching. We all need to remember this when we vote for mayor. Who is the most apt to try to contain this mess? I think most folks believe that Garnett Johnson is much better equipped to do this. I certainly do.

  6. This is a very insightful article .
    This article and its preceding articles should be required reading for all Richmond County voters .
    GARNETT JOHNSON is the only candidate in the Mayor’s runoff who expresses concern for the tax burden created by the Augusta Commission.

  7. Outstanding commentary, Joe. Sadly, most of the increased spending comes from commissioners counting on the votes of people who don’t pay property tax, or are renters who don’t pay them directly. Spending other people’s money is easy.

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