Growth focus of State of Community address in North Augusta

Growth focus of State of Community address in North Augusta

Four regional leaders gathered Thursday to discuss the triumphs and challenges that come with the area’s rapid growth.

Held at North Augusta High School, the main areas of focus included economic development and ongoing projects.

North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit, Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, Aiken County School Superintendent Sean Alford and Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. James Clifford gave presentations during the seventh annual State of Our Community panel.

In Aiken, Bunker said the primary area of concern is how the council will balance the budget for the fiscal year of 2020 without the $3.5 million dollars the state legislature has been providing the county for the past five years following Winter Storm Pax in 2014.

That money has been going toward the county’s revenue, and the gap has to be bridged before the council considers any raises, staffing increases or new programs, Bunker said.

To help close that gap, the county might be forced to raise taxes, including increasing the millage rate by 3.1 mills from 68.5 to 71.6. The vehicle road maintenance fee could also be raised $5 per vehicle and there could be a slight increase in the 911 landline fee.

Bunker also discussed the Langley Pond Dam replacement project in Midland Valley. He said he is expecting the project to be completed in January 2020 and to be under the $15.3 million budget.

He said Aiken and North Augusta should start seeing revenue from Capital Projects Sales Tax IV, which voters recently approved, in November or December.

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