Augusta to vote on sales tax

Augusta voters will decide in November if they want to continue paying a 1 percent city sales tax that has generated about $1 million annually for city improvements.

Half of the sales tax fund would be used to repair city streets. Of the remainder, 20 percent would be used to reduce property taxes, 20 percent would fund major capital improvements, and 10 percent would go to the city's general fund.

The tax applies to all taxable purchases made in the city.

"I think it's really important that we stay on top of (street repairs) so that down the road we're not faced with even greater problems," Mayor Kristey Williams said. "When a local sales tax is approved, citizens have the advantage of seeing their dollars work locally. It makes a difference."

City residents will vote Nov. 2 on whether to extend the tax until 2016. If they reject the extension, the tax will expire Oct. 1, 2011.

The tax has been in place since 2006, when it was approved 1,482 to 596.

A city sales tax committee recommends which street improvements to fund from the tax. The group meets each fall and hosts public meetings and information sessions to guide its recommendations.

Although the sales tax has generated about $1 million annually, City Manager Bill Keefer said he expects the fund to decline because of the economy and because Parks Chevrolet of Augusta, one of the one of largest contributors to the sales tax fund, plans to move four miles west, outside city limits.

If voters extend the tax, it will help pay for two major projects:

* Improvements to the spillway at the Augusta Lake dam, estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, Keefer said.

* Improvements to raise and lengthen the Whitewater River levee to protect against a 500-year flood. The nearly 4-mile-long levee would grow by 2,600 feet, and would be raised between 2 and 6 feet over much of its current length. The estimated $5.5 million project would be paid 65 percent by federal funds and 35 percent by the city, putting the city's tab at about $1.9 million.