Columbia County Residents, what are you paying for?
When you receive your tax bill from Columbia County, it’s for a lump sum. A good bit of that is for the school system, and then some is for Fire Service and some for Debt Service, some for the state, and then the rest is for Ron Cross, Ron Thigpen, Trey Allen, Charles Allen, and Bill Morris to use to run the county, aka, General Maintenance and Operation. THAT IS THE PRIMARY SUBJECT OF THIS ARTICLE; what the county government actually collects and spends to run the day to day operations of the county.
If you get confused every time you look at your tax bill, don’t be concerned, because the system is designed to make you confused. To add more confusion, the numbers that News-Times News Editor Donnie Fetter reported do not jive with a Columbia County tax bill. Fetter wrote, “The county’s overall 9.137 millage is divided three ways — 6.402 mills is dedicated to maintenance and operations, 2.081 mills for fire service and 0.654 of a mill to repay bond debt.” Look at your tax bill. Do the numbers match? No! The matter is further confused by something listed as “Local Option Credit”, to make you think something good is going on. Nowhere on your tax bill will you find 6.402 mills, which would be written as .006402, Trust us – this number is correct, and it is the only one we are talking about for a few paragraphs.
The fact that there have been some significant, hidden changes made in the millage rates for Debt Service and Fire Service is a subject for another day.
Now, let’s calculate what this 6.402 mills means in terms of how much it costs you as a home owner in Columbia County.
When our local elected officials talk about property tax increases, they always use the example of “$100,000” homes. We will use the same. Property in Georgia is taxed at 40% of its assessed value, so 40% of $100,000 equals $40,000. The millage rate is multiplied by this number to determine the amount you owe. A simple calculation, .006402 X $40,000, equals $256.08, or the amount of taxes you would pay each year for the maintenance and operation of the county. Since the millage rate represents “dollars per thousand”, you get the same results by dividing $40,000 by $1,000, ($40) and multiplying that by the millage rate, 6.402. Remember, this is only one portion of your property tax bill.
Now, let’s look at how some of our tax dollars are being spent.
According to records buried on the county’s website, you can find the following payments of our tax dollars for “Provision of Service Agreements”. (Ask your commissioner what this means.)
|Alzheimer’s Association of Augusta – $1,500.00|
|American Breast Cancer Association – $500.00|
|Augusta Futurity – $1,000.00 Who gets to wear the black hat?|
|Columbia County Arts – $1,000.00|
|Columbia County Chamber of Commerce – $10,000.00|
|Columbia County Orchestra Association – $1,000.00|
|CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project – $1,500.00|
|CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project – $500.00 MORE|
|Evans Lions Club – $500.00 Bill Morris earmarked this…why? He doesn’t live in Evans…as if it matters; Trey Allen seconded a motion to spend $1,000,000 to dredge Ron Thigpen’s/Westlake’s pond, now Bill Morris gives $500 of tax money to the Evans Lions Club.|
|Family Y – $1,500.00 The same Family Y we are building a swimming pool for that the people voted down and then Ron Cross hid in a SPLOST package.|
|Family Y – $500.00 MORE|
|Greater Augusta Partnership for Literacy – $1,000.00|
|Make A Wish Foundation – $500.00|
|Red Cross – $3,500.00|
|Red Cross – $500.00 MORE|
|Ronald McDonald House – $250.00|
|SAFE Homes of Augusta – $4,000.00|
|Salvation Army of Augusta – $500.00|
The Total given to just these organizations is $29,750.00
Now let’s divide this number ($29,750.00) by the amount of “maintenance and operations” taxes collected on a $100,000 home ($256.08). The answer is 116.2.
Columbia County commissioners collected taxes on 116 Columbia County homes and gave the money to private organizations. We know that Barry Paschal and Austin Rhodes have mentioned this 101 times, but we thought that it bears repeating…they really haven’t, but we just wanted to remind you of what they “report” and what we report. We always tell the truth to the people and will never tell you a lie.
We think these are all good organizations, and within our group we make individual contributions to most of them. We do this with our own money and by our own choice. We don’t believe any government should collect taxes and redistribute the dollars to a chosen few. Worthwhile organizations can survive on their own without government assistance (welfare?).
Using this same calculation, it takes the taxes from 85 homes every year to pay a “trivial” $22,000.00 coffee bill for county employees.
As a side note, we think we discovered why it is so important for Columbia County Taxpayers to keep the West Lake pond dredged. Sources that live in West Lake have told us the pond is where the West Lake County Club Golf Course irrigation pumps are located. When the pond is full of silt the pumps can’t get to the water. Remember, the $1million spent so far on the project was borrowed money from one of our many bonds. The money to pay off this debt is also part of your property tax bill.
The current millage rate for county bonds is listed on you property tax bill as .000654. On a $100,000 home, the amount collected this year will be $26.16. At this rate, it will only take the taxes from 38,226 homes to pay the bill in one year. But don’t forget the interest. And the bond costs. And the attorney fees. And the bank fees. And a trip to New York.
Next time you are invited to play golf at West Lake, thank Ron Thigpen and Trey Allen for their generosity with your tax dollars. Don’t forget that Thigpen lives in West Lake.
Someone please ask Bill Morris why he gave money to the Evans Lions Club. Don’t Harlem and Grovetown have Lions Clubs? We think he is playing a game called “follow the leader”.