With approximately 352 vacant positions on the books – 12 percent of the local government workforce – Augusta officials are considering eliminating 63 of them.
The vacancies are spread across most local government departments, but the two highest are Augusta Utilities with 90 of 390 jobs open and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office which had 89 among 750 authorized positions, in an Oct. 12 point-in-time survey presented to Augusta commissioners Wednesday.
City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said the positions remain open for a variety of reasons, including low pay and unpleasant working conditions. She gave an example of nine Animal Services officers who worked through six positions in two years, with none lasting more than 20 weeks on the job.
The vacancies also can weigh on a department’s overtime budget, Jackson said. The sheriff’s office, for instance, had as of Sept. 30 exhausted its 2017 overtime budget, she said.
But eliminating vacant positions does not result in a “dollar for dollar savings,” she warned, as the recurrent openings are not fully funded in each department’s annual budget.
Jackson named 63 positions to eliminate, grouped by their funding source. The largest cuts were 14 from the sheriff’s office, 29 from Utilities and five sales-tax-funded positions in Engineering.
The positions’ salaries added to $2.2 million, but the undetermined savings amount won’t be that much, Jackson said.
Commissioner Sammie Sias said commissioners had asked Jackson to identify 200 positions and he preferred temporarily defunding them, not eliminating them altogether.
The commission and Mayor Hardie Davis have sought additional information about health insurance, vacant positions and other budget details as the commission continues its review of Jackson’s 2018 spending plan. With revenues flat, Jackson has proposed keeping most department budgets at 2017 levels.
Jackson also wants to give raises to certain workers identified as underpaid in unreleased findings from a compensation analysis, while Sheriff Richard Roundtree is calling for his entire workforce to receive raises expected to cost $2.3 million.
Roundtree maintained his call for the raises Wednesday, saying his overworked force is leaving for better-paying jobs. The money is there but the city is “spending it in other places,” Roundtree said. He said residents would agree to raise taxes for law enforcement.
“Citizens of Richmond County will support a tax increase if it is for law enforcement,” Rountree said.
The commission has additional budget sessions scheduled Tuesday and Nov. 13.
Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.