Commission OKs budget for 2011

Cuts, furlough days among approvals

With almost no public discussion, the Augusta Commission adopted a 2011 budget Tuesday that cuts the sheriff's office by $750,000, includes five furlough days for employees and grants the city administrator sweeping power to make further cuts.

"We've balanced the budget, but there's still some hard decisions to be made on services and how to come up with the $1.5 million in savings through reorganization," City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Working for weeks before the meeting with individual commissioners, Russell secured the needed votes, keeping debate about how to trim a total of $9.4 million to a minimum.

In a resolution included in the budget, Russell is directed to implement a reduction of operating expenses and reorganize the departmental structure of the government to save money, including the elimination of government positions as needed.

Balancing the $133.9 million general fund budget also includes postponing the purchase of $2.3 million worth of equipment, selling $2 million of city-owned property and taking $1.5 million from reserve funds.

The city owns property on the river that would bring much more than $2 million, Russell said.

An additional $600,000 is expected to be saved on the prisoner medical contract by using an Association County Commission-ers of Georgia program recommended by Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Joe Bowles.

Before the vote, Commissioner Bill Lockett said he still had concerns about the reorganization.

Finance Chairman Don Grantham's motion for adoption passed 8-1, with Bowles voting no and Commissioner J.R. Hatney absent from the meeting.

Afterward, Bowles said he voted no because, despite the resolution, he was not satisfied the $1.5 million in cuts would not come back before the commission for approval.

"The reorganization plan is a great idea, but we don't need the commission involved in the reorganization of this government," he said. "When that happens, you get into personalities, and certain employees start being protected, and we won't realize the savings that were once realizable."

Russell said the commission will have discussions in coming weeks about what the reorganization plan will be.

"And, hopefully, we'll be able to come up with consensus that meets my recommendation," Russell said. "It's a marathon. It's not a sprint."

Grantham said the resolution gives Russell the authority to reorganize the government and take to the commission his decisions for ratification.

Almost $600,000 will have to be used to subsidize transit, and $193,820 to subsidize the Municipal Golf Course. The city also will have to give $250,130 to Housing and Community Development.

In other business

In other action Tuesday, the Augusta Commission voted unanimously to revoke the beer and wine license and business license for Mamie Lee's Southern Cooking on Tobacco Road for failing to comply with the city's dance hall ordinance and failing to comply with the ordinance that requires restaurants that serve alcohol to show that 50 percent of their sales were for food.

During an audit of the restaurant's records, the owner could not provide city auditors with itemized sales receipts, License Inspections Director Rob Sherman said.

Attorney Jack Batson, who represented owner Teresa Cummings, contended his client had not been provided due process.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said all issues concerning Mamie Lee's were addressed in earlier public meetings, some of them by Brigham himself, and recorded in the meeting minutes.

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