Augusta Commission to discuss budget at retreat

The Augusta Commission will weigh in on whether to plan additional furlough days, cut services or potentially raise taxes during a four-hour budget and goal-setting retreat Wednesday at Augusta-Richmond County Library.

"The fact is that we're probably projecting revenues will remain flat," said City Administrator Fred Russell, who arranged the meeting. "Are there any options that we have to increase revenues? If not, we need to talk about what services do we look at to determine how to meet the revenue projections."

Russell said he wants the commission to decide whether to plan for a third year of furlough days. This year, five scheduled furlough days are expected to trim $1 million from the city's 2011 general fund-law enforcement operating deficit of about $9 million. During 2010, there were two citywide furlough days.

Russell said he also wanted direction about whether to plan for a tax increase, which the commission hasn't done since 2008. Last year, the commission lowered the millage slightly to offset small gains made on the tax digest.

Even as the city plans for fiscal 2012, which begins in January, it has not realized all the savings that will balance the 2011 budget. A government restructuring plan that would have saved $1.5 million if entirely implemented at the first of the year will likely save just $700,000 to $800,000, Russell said. The sale of surplus city land and buildings projected to generate $2 million awaits the commission's selection of a real estate firm.

The meeting also will be an opportunity for commission members to set other goals, Russell said, such as Commissioner Bill Lockett's request Monday for a "demolition derby" targeting dilapidated properties across the city. Right now, Augusta budgets just $100,000 annually to condemn and remove such structures.

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If you go

What: Augusta Commission Retreat
When: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Wednesday, July 13
Where: Third Floor Boardroom, Augusta Public Library, 823 Telfair St.

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