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Editorial: Timing Of New Arena All Wrong

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On Tuesday Nov. 2, residents of Richmond County will make the final decision on whether to move forward with building a new $228 million to $240 million dollar James Brown Arena. We urge the citizenry to vote no…for now.

In our view, the biggest problem is how the city is attempting to pay for the project. Rather than using SPLOST funds, which we are told by the Coliseum Authority is impossible, the bonds will be largely paid through a property tax increase.

On paper, the tax increase will only cost the average homeowner $100 per $100,000 in property value. However, the claim that the tax will cost the same as a monthly cup of Starbucks coffee is misleading.

Landlords, and especially those running multi-million dollar apartment complexes are not going to just absorb the tax, they will pass it along to their renters. This means that the tax burden will largely fall on those who can’t afford Starbucks coffee, much less a $175 ticket to see a show at the new arena.

We are told that the cost of the project is fixed and that there will be no cost overruns. However, in the current pandemic economy, construction costs for the most simplest of structures are soaring. The national supply chain backlog, which federal officials admit will not be going away any time soon, is causing empty shelves and the inflation, not seen since the Carter Era, is causing prices of everyday goods to spike.

The people need bread, not circuses.

The Colosseum Authority should be applauded for their due diligence in taking their time over almost a decade to create a multi-purpose building designed to last for decades. Renderings of the proposed complex are visually stunning.

While the Coliseum Authority has proven it can be trusted to handle the public’s money responsibly, we all know that the authority’s colleagues on the Augusta Commission cannot.

Augusta city leaders have salivated at the recent windfall of $40 million in CARES Act funding and have been eager to give pay raises across the board to city employees, create new job positions and they even have grabbed into the federal kitty to pay to have the long overgrown city grass cut.

The pandemic had nothing to do with the city’s inability to cut its own grass, but rather financial neglect and mismanagement have caused the so-called Garden City to look more like a jungle in places.

So, what happens in a year when those federal funds dry up? Will the city take away the raises, eliminate the new positions and stop cutting the grass? 

No, they will raise taxes and likely still have problems cutting the grass. History is our guide.

In 1996, the city of Augusta and Richmond County consolidated  governments, but did not pare down the staff which led to duplicate jobs all over the county while water mains were busting all over South Augusta due to past neglect.

At that time, a bailout was available to the city’s bottom line because it literally tripled in size and gained a massive new tax base which helped pay for the malaise ridden government with inherited property taxes and utility fees. 

However, this time the city does not have the luxury of an increasing tax base. People are moving out of Richmond County.

Right now, city leaders are steaming our vessel through ice infested waters at full speed while enjoying highballs and watching the fiddler’s fiddle, 

The plans and specs are drawn for the new arena and can be placed on the shelf for now. We urge the citizens of Augusta to get motivated, go to the polls and vote down the bond measure, or, in other words:

“Iceberg, right ahead!”

16 COMMENTS

  1. COURAGEOUS editorial …. a new multi mil $ arena is a BIG MISTAKE. Simply look at another article in this Press issue “Lake Olmstead Stadium Has New Life Ahead” to see what really makes sense for Augusta. We are a medium size wonderful city except for our leadership cannot grasp how to control spending and direct tax dollars to Augusta’s needed items (clean it up and keep it clean) etc etc. Thanks for your position.

  2. It is very refreshing to read an EDITORIAL concerning governmental fiscal responsibility. Common sense should always prevail, but this is rarely the case with our local government. I will NOT support any property tax increases for A/RC. So much money is wasted, and a new JB arena should not become another burden placed on responsible landowners. VOTE NO on November 2!!!

  3. Spot on editorial but like said Bill said could happen. Early voting has been more than usual on a bond issue so that could be a sign of many voting no like we did Friday. Have to stop riding the back of taxpayers for this monstrosity.

  4. I was born and raised in Augusta. I want to be proud of our City. Plain and simple……..”get back to basics” and give it back the name of Garden City. We want good hard-working reasonable people running our City and the same living here. A new Arena is NOT the answer now. VOTE NO November 2nd!

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