Are Richmond County stormwater fees used for non-engineering projects?

Are Richmond County stormwater fees used for non-engineering projects?

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Almost a year after being implemented, people still have questions on how the money collected for Augusta's stormwater fee is being used.

Since talks of a stormwater fee first began, a core group of residents, including Moses Todd, has been fighting to ax the tax. "Give the citizens the opportunity to vote it either up or down."

The most recent wave of criticism came after suggestions that the additional money was being used to balance the city's fragile budget. Now close to a year in, and nearly $7 million worth of collected fees, we asked Augusta's chief engineer, Abie Ladson, what many people have questioned: is any of the money being used for projects that are not stormwater related?

"No. The stormwater funds are actually being used what it's intended for."

That includes maintenance and capital improvement projects. Ladson says the confusion may have surfaced after the 2017 budget showed payroll for engineering employees being moved from the general budget over to the stormwater account.

"There was staff that was being paid out of the general budget and were doing storm water-type work. Now, those staff members are being paid directly from storm water." He says the department expects to collect nearly $12 million by the end of the year.

The majority of that money has been allotted for contract services, salaries and benefits. So, Ladson says although every dime isn't being used to clear drains and replace pipes....every penny goes towards maintaining a functioning program. "We've done a lot, but there's still a lot to be done out there."

The current program is scheduled to be in place for the next five years. At that time, the city will reevaluate whether to keep the $6.40 fee or make adjustments.

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