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Augusta Plans $12 Million in Support of Georgia Cyber Innovation Center Plans

Plans are for a five-story parking garage at the current site of parking for the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, where the innovation center is fast-tracked for construction.

(TNS) -- Augusta officials set in motion Tuesday plans to borrow $12 million to build a parking garage for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

The Augusta commission voted 9-0 after a lengthy closed-door session to authorize City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson to negotiate terms by which the city will pay for construction of a parking deck through a $12 million bond issue. Commissioner Grady Smith was absent and said he’d had cataract surgery.

Mayor Hardie Davis called the vote “generational and transformational” as Augusta puts its money toward the state of Georgia’s plan to invest $50 million in the cyber innovation center on the city’s riverfront.

Architectural drawings showed a five-story parking garage at the current site of parking for the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, a state-owned property where the innovation center is fast-tracked for construction.

The commission didn’t discuss openly how the city will repay the bonds, whether through a tax increase or reprogramming sales tax funds from other projects.

In a related matter, the city’s general fund ended 2016 with a surplus of $2.6 million, according to an unaudited annual financial report presented by Finance Director Donna Williams.

Much of the surplus came from an October $2 million reimbursement check from FEMA for the 2014 ice storm expenses, and another $1.1 million was transferred to savings to replenish city reserves diminished by the storm, leaving an actual “break even” surplus of $188,105, Williams said.

The city’s fire protection fund added $1 million to its fund balance, with help from $375,000 in unbudgeted 2016 fire insurance premium taxes, but $465,000 of the surplus is obligated for a purchase, she said.

The “break even” surplus of $188,105 appears despite the infusion of some $15 million in new revenue from the stormwater utility fee the commission implemented last year. The fee is being used to pay for and supplement services previously paid from the general fund or sales taxes but was not covered in the report.

One-percent sales tax collections - which include the special purpose tax for capital projects, the local option sales tax used to offset property taxes and the Transportation Investment Act - remain below projections.

According to Williams’ presentation, penny sales tax distributions were below 2015 amounts for every month of last year except December, and December 2015 was when the state demanded Augusta refund a local business that had been overpaying its taxes.

©2017 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.