Diverse reasons behind population shift out of Richmond County

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More and more people are leaving the city life for the suburbs, and Augusta is feeling the strain, with a smaller tax base and no sign of a turnaround.

Why the exodus? And what does it mean?

Less people means less money. And while they still work and play here, many people are choosing not to live in the garden city.

It's no secret...lots of folks are leaving Richmond County, and many aren't going far, moving right down the road to Columbia County.

And there's no single reason why.

For homeowner Iris Souza, it's a no-brainer.

"Everything is happening in this county," she says.

She's lived in Columbia County for 25 years, and she says she understands why it's a hot spot for folks leaving Richmond County.

"Parents feel that the children get a better education out here," she says.

One of those parents is Misty Kilpatrick. She and her family recently made the move. Kilpatrick says a booming economy and higher test scores were factors, but safety was an even greater concern.

"The trouble--we have trouble here, don't get me wrong, but it's so much trouble on such a regular basis over there and in the neighborhoods," Kilpatrick says.

IRS data shows nearly 1500 people are moving to Columbia County from Richmond County each year.

Other data shows Richmond County's population has slightly decreased in the last five years, while Columbia County's has increased by over 11,000 people.

Richmond County Population

2000: 199,548
2005: 199,300
(down by 248)

Columbia County Population

2000: 89,829
2005: 101,380
(up by:11, 551)

source: N. Augusta Economic Profile

Liz Manthei still lives in Augusta, and she says there's another major reason people are leaving.

"I think there's a lot of corruption in Richmond County, more than in Columbia County," she says.

"I disagree," says Augusta commissioner Betty Beard. "I disagree with all of it."

But some Augusta leaders say Columbia County migration is a temporary trend. They feel that those who've left the Garden City will eventually see the grass isn't so green on the other side.

"Now that they're moving to Columbia County, have you noticed crime seems to be increasing?" Beard says.

"The same people that left Richmond County because of the perception of better schools in Columbia County, once their kids get in school, they'll move back to Richmond County," says mayor Deke Copenhaver. "I have no doubt in the world."

Some Augusta leaders say the large amount of people leaving is affecting the tax base, which does add to the budget deficit.

The majority of people we spoke to say the prospect of better schools was their main reason for moving.

While people may be moving out of Richmond County, they still seem to be spending a lot of time there.

The US Census Bureau keeps up with how many people commute to a city every day. The numbers from 2000 show while people may live outside the city, they're still working in Augusta.

During the day, the city's population grows by about 13 percent, to more than 220,000 people.

And the numbers show that surrounding communities lose people during the day.

North Augusta has a daytime population decrease of almost 13 percent. Martinez loses over 16 percent. And Evans loses almost 20 percent of its population during the workday.