Cuts eyed for Augusta's $6.3 million budget hole

Augusta Commission members seemed to agree Thursday on ways to plug a $6.3 million hole in the 2012 budget, but it won’t be painless for city employees and agencies.

 

Mayor Deke Copenhaver called the budget work session “tremendously productive,” and all seven commissioners present appeared to reach consensus with City Administrator Fred Russell about how to balance the budget, which must be approved next week.

Excluding law enforcement, the plan calls for all departments and agencies to trim their budgets by 2 percent to 8 percent, on a sliding scale that’s based on department size.

That level cut could mean a personnel reduction in larger agencies such as the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, which relies heavily on local funding and is seeing its state support decrease.

“We’re going to feel it, no question,” said Regional Library Director Teresa Cole, who attended the workshop.

Recreation Director Tom Beck said an 8 percent cut would likely mean closing facilities.

Other components of the plan agreed to Thursday include:

-$1.5 million in savings from prisoner housing costs

-$1 million transfer in to the general fund budget from capital outlays

-$1 million savings from a reduction in force of 34 undetermined positions

-$300,000 in savings from reorganization

-$1.1 million transfer in from the reserve fund, which is currently at $32.8 million

-$140,000 in new spending for a DUI court

-$100,000 for a new mayor’s economic development “micro-level” office

-$168,273 for three new public defenders

-A midyear cost-of-living adjustment for all employees, the first since 2008

The savings don’t make up the entirety of Augusta’s 2012 general fund shortfall. The fire department’s portion of the budget still has a $1 million shortfall that commissioners have considered raising the fire portion of Augusta’s millage rate to cover.

Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen will present the plan at Tuesday’s commission meeting because Russell will be in Sarasota, Fla., interviewing for a county administrator position there. The commission is expected to receive the plan as information Tuesday, then vote on it at a later date.

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