'Satanic,' 'racist' name-calling ensues as Augusta finance chair says 'there could be a tax increase'

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Oct. 1, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A state tax break that is good for businesses might not be good for your wallet. Augusta leaders warn they might have to plug a budget hole with your cash.

Let the name-calling begin. Satanic and racist are just a few of the names being thrown around as the city tries to figure out how to fill a $1 million budget hole.

"The public needs to understand that there could be a tax increase," said Augusta Finance Committee Chairman Jerry Brigham. "Could be. Didn't say it would be."

The mayor pro tem first suggested slashing church exemptions as a way to make up for less funding from the state.

"And I'm not surprised at that, because it is really more of a satanic move," said Rev. K. B. Martin with the Augusta Baptist Ministers Conference. "It's part of the movement to destroy the church, and then you want to ask the question why is society in the shape that it is in?"

"You know," said Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, "racist preachers have their opinions, and I sleep well at night."

Commissioners say there are other ways to make up the close to $1 million loss.

"Like a franchise fee," said Augusta Finance Committee Chairman Jerry Brigham. "It's a franchise fee. That's what the legislation is."

"They can call what they want," Bowles said. "It's a tax."

The city is considering an excise tax on manufacturers to make up for the lost revenue.

"Which defeats the purpose of the tax break," Bowles said.

"We're going to either have to cut services or raise property taxes," said Brigham, who is not convinced a tax increase can be avoided. "Taxes will probably change no matter what we do."

The tax break for businesses will also extend the length of time it takes to collect money for SPLOST projects. The commission has a work session planned on the topic this Thursday at 3 p.m.