Every year, the City Manager Bill Bridgeo provides an excellent summary of the city’s financial outlook. To view the entire document, click here. However, I thought this excerpt captures the situation best…
“As proposed this budget would require a 5.37% increase in the property tax rate. The total city budget (including the school department and county tax) increases by 3.45% from $53,302,175 this year to $55,142,267 next year. The amount needed from property taxes would increase from $27,518,816 to $29,194,588 or $1,677,772 or 6.09%. (A $10 million growth in the taxable base in the city means the rate would go up less – 5.37%). In terms of mils (dollars per thousand of taxable valuation), the proposed tax rate goes from $18.67 this year to $19.67 next year. Of that, $9.91 is for municipal purposes, $8.78 for schools, and $.98 for the county.”
Many of our financial challenges remain. With declining revenues from the state and year’s of reductions in programs and services at the local level, there are little areas left to cut. Consider this – 75% of the city’s expenditures are in fixed costs and obligations, public safety, and public works. To bring this year’s city budget to a zero property tax increase would be equivalent to a $1.5 million reduction. We could eliminate our entire economic development and planning department or, cut the entire parks and cemeteries, Lithgow Library, and Bicentennial Nature Park budgets combined. This would be detrimental to our community. I do not use these examples as a means of pulling at heart strings, but the reality is we are very limited in reducing city operations without a significant impact.
It is important to point out that if the state were to fund revenue sharing as required by law, we would not have to propose an increase in the property taxes for the people of Augusta.