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Report details savings from Augusta reorganization

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The report arrived in Augusta Commission members’ mailboxes Monday.

Inside, City Administrator Fred Russell attempts to provide a numerical justification for his ongoing reorganization of city government.

The verdict: The changes will save the city $2,026,246 annually, but only $675,400 this year, because it hasn’t been fully implemented.

Russell also recommends, in the packet mailed to the commission while he’s on vacation for a week, that the city repay employees for two upcoming furlough days.

For months, commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett have demanded a detailed report on actual savings from the reorganization, but the demand spread across the entire commission earlier this month when members learned that Russell had awarded retroactive raises to 44 employees impacted by the reorganization. The move prompted Mason to call for Russell’s job, but only Lockett and two other commissioners joined Mason in voting to fire the administrator.

Russell, who has stated the raises were given because the 44 employees took on additional duties under the reorganized government, detailed the department-level changes but said little in the report about specific job duties.

A portion of the report obtained by The Augusta Chronicle details numerous additional duties and “implemented efficiencies” assigned during the reorganization to the city’s environmental services, engineering, recreation, finance and utilities departments.

In Environmental Services, for example, where seven employees received annual raises totaling $33,340, the department’s overall salaries and benefits paid drop from $2.15 million before the reorganization to $1.83 million after, according to the report.

The department shrank from 61 to 53 personnel as it took on new tasks of street sweeping, vacant lot maintenance, underground tank and industrial stormwater permitting and brownfields, the report says.

Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson, who was among those given a raise, said the changes were working.

“It’s taking new management with a new set of eyes to come up with a new set of solutions,” he said.

In Engineering, where Russell awarded a dozen raises totaling $137,986, total personnel increased from 76 to 166 as the department took on maintenance of vegetation; drainage; ponds; bridges; Augusta Levee; trees, asphalt and concrete construction; and a Georgia Department of Transportation maintenance contract, the report says.

Engineering, where most of the dismantled former Public Services Department landed, saw its total annual salaries and benefits paid increase from $3 million to $5.4 million during the reorganization.

Commission members’ reaction to the report was mixed.

“How can you not be impressed with $2 million in savings?” said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, adding that Augusta government likely was “still somewhat loaded.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles received his copy of the report later and hadn’t had an opportunity to review it, but was skeptical that the cost-savings numbers actually included vacant positions.

Augusta Human Resources Director Rod Powell said some of the positions eliminated in the reorganization were already vacant, although late Tuesday he wasn’t sure of the precise number.

Commissioner Matt Aitken, who was one of the four to vote to fire Russell, said he’d had little time to review the report, but wanted to know more about the city’s current financial picture that might allow it to refund employees for the furlough days.

Lockett said he applauded the decision on the furlough days but questioned the report.

“A lot of these groups come out of an enterprise fund,” he said of reorganizing departments such as Utilities and Solid Waste that generate revenue on their own and reinvest it.

He also questioned why some of the employees given raises oversee functions now being studied, according to the report, for privatization.

“It seems to me like we are playing a shell game,” Lockett said.

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emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 08/23/11 - 11:01 am
0
0
Does that $675,400 figure

Does that $675,400 figure already include repaying the furlough days or would the furlough days come out of that money?

showboat
369
Points
showboat 08/23/11 - 12:39 pm
0
0
What a joke a report sent
Unpublished

What a joke a report sent while he is on vacation, so no one can talk to him about the report.LOL

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/23/11 - 01:06 pm
0
0
showboat, agreed, a very

showboat, agreed, a very cowardly approach. In addition...

"Russell also recommends, in the packet mailed to the commission while he’s on vacation for a week, that the city repay employees for two upcoming furlough days,"

What? Repay for two UPCOMING furlough days? Either furlough them or don't, paying them to miss work for two days is more fiscal insanity.

The underlying motivation must be, they are believed to be so ignorant, it will make up for them not receiving a raise while the muckidymucks enjoy their 15%.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/23/11 - 01:10 pm
0
0
I have a plan to save $10

I have a plan to save $10 million dollars. The first year will only save $10,000, but over 1,000 years it will save $10 million.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/23/11 - 01:20 pm
0
0
I think the commissioners are

I think the commissioners are going to find that among the $2,026,246 "savings" are wages for unfilled job positions. They are "what if" savings, not real.

Russell's reorganization plan took savings credit for jobs that were vacant and had been vacant for months (some, years). I hope intrepid reporter Susan McCord snoops around and reports how many employees were actually let go and no longer work for the city.

I wonder if Russell takes credit for the transportation employees that are being transferred to the private bus company?

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/23/11 - 02:28 pm
0
0
Sounds to me that the man is

Sounds to me that the man is doing his job and people are still complaining. I think what this means is that next years budget will require less money. Isn't that the right direction? How can you be so concerned about compensating 44 department heads and key employees when it ultimately adds up to a significant savings? Better be thankful the man knows what he is doing. The rub I read about is that the man didn't ask if he could do his job, he just did it. With 2600 employees, accept that they need A boss.

showboat
369
Points
showboat 08/23/11 - 03:02 pm
0
0
Duh JUDGE , you must work for
Unpublished

Duh JUDGE , you must work for Russell or you must be one of the 44 that gotcompensated while we got nothing. If you pay everyone for the furlough days that will mean that other 44 will get more also, I hope Russell don't think that the commission are that stupid to buy this.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/23/11 - 03:07 pm
0
0
I don't know waht DuhJudge

I don't know waht DuhJudge means by this statement:

The rub I read about is that the man didn't ask if he could do his job, he just did it.

If he's talking about the 15% raises given to select high-level employees on the QT in the midst of a recession, that was a serious lapse of judgment. You don't want city administrators who act like that.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/23/11 - 03:12 pm
0
0
At the top of this article is

At the top of this article is a link to a PDF file that gives Russell's PowerPoint presentation on the reorganization. If you buy it, you will buy oceanfront property in Kansas.

Here is a quote from Russell's cover letter about the furloughs:

In addition, on September 6, 2011, I am ready to recommend that we repay employees for the last two (2) furlough days. The year end numbers from last year and our current revenue/spending figures are such that I am confident with this recommendation. Because these two days are before holidays and we have traditionally closed early on these days, I would also recommend that the employees be given these days off. Many public safety groups have already taken these days and it would be fair to the balance of the workforce to allow them off. This will also provide a savings for not opening the buildings and will have little impact upon the public.

When he says "repay" and "last two furlough days" is he talking about the last two days that they have already taken in the past or is he talking about the last two scheduled days for this calendar year? If he's talking about the future, he should not have used the word "repay." Using strange jargon such as "repay" and "last furlough days" is a sneaky joke intended to confuse the commissioners a week from today.

showboat
369
Points
showboat 08/23/11 - 03:21 pm
0
0
Russell is trying to dig
Unpublished

Russell is trying to dig himself out hole withe false words with the commissioners, he can fool @ least six of them.

dichotomy
37614
Points
dichotomy 08/23/11 - 03:34 pm
0
0
Wish Fred had put this report

Wish Fred had put this report out before passing out the raises. Especially if the numbers are correct. If the numbers are correct then leave Fred alone and lets see if we get the $2 mil savings next year.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/23/11 - 04:44 pm
0
0
Fred Russell should have the

Fred Russell should have the opportunity, the accountability, and the responsibility of personally presenting his report, line by line, during the Commissioner's meeting held in a public forum and give explanations of each proposal and how it is saving taxpayer dollars.

There is nothing more important to be talked about than this proposal at this time in city business.

If Russell is an asset to the community, his integrity could be restored. Should he prove to be a liability, it is time for both taxpayers and Commissioners to come to a critical decision.

I hope there are Commissioners honest enough to make this happen.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/23/11 - 04:53 pm
0
0
No I am not even close to an

No I am not even close to an RC employee let alone being one. I am a boss however and the fact is that my employees work for ME not the other way around. If you hire someone to do a job, then get out of the way because you have delegated away your responsibility. The boss is not there to be popular and win votes come election day. The boss has a huge responsibility for the enterprise. He makes things happen, and many times only other bosses would ever understand. Commissioners think they are bosses. Wrong. They HIRE bosses. And if you were to add up this man's accomplishments since he was hired, I bet you would be hard pressed to find an equivalent Administrator.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/23/11 - 05:18 pm
0
0
Duh Judge, Your philosophy

Duh Judge, Your philosophy works for private business owners who invest their own money in the enterprise. Ultimately, City officials work for and are accountable to the taxpayers, who pay their salaries. Russell should not be given carte blanche without accountability, period.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/23/11 - 06:47 pm
0
0
And p.s. Duh Judge, we

And p.s. Duh Judge, we delegate the job and assign responsibilities, but the result is always ours, if we had the power to delegate the job in the first place.

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 08/23/11 - 07:25 pm
0
0
So where is the other 1.5

So where is the other 1.5 million coming from - probably the Sheriff's Office and Fire Department which have both already been cut below any accreditation or national standards.

We need to see the entire report. Furthermore, we need to include the savings by cancelling any/all recently approved raises.

raul
5778
Points
raul 08/23/11 - 07:30 pm
0
0
I thought I read somewhere

I thought I read somewhere that the end result was only two positions being eliminated?

raul
5778
Points
raul 08/23/11 - 07:35 pm
0
0
Well, I looked at the report

Well, I looked at the report after making my initial comment. It looks like there were positions abolished. Were they vacant or encumbered?

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/23/11 - 07:39 pm
0
0
Wait a minute. Don't we

Wait a minute. Don't we remember the argument that the Administrator should have hire and fire power? Do you want a strong Administrator or not? 2600 employees that think they won the lottery and own their job.....I don't think so. Not if you pay taxes like I do. So what would you have done, boss man?

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/23/11 - 08:43 pm
0
0
I'm not a man, but it isn't

I'm not a man, but it isn't difficult. I wouldn't have given 15% raises to the chosen few while furloughing others, cutting the sheriff's and fire dept.'s, sneaking it all in without consulting with anyone, and coming up with a last minute plan for reorganization that completely lacks any details issued while running and hiding away like a big baby coward hoping for it all to blow over. And that's just for starters.

tomcasey
-2
Points
tomcasey 08/23/11 - 09:53 pm
0
0
I agree with Willow. You do

I agree with Willow. You do not claim to be in financial trouble then hand out raises to specific managers while furloughing everyone else. Bad management in my opinion and horrible for morale.

Hey remember we still have had no real resolution from the retired firefighters (as well as other city and county employees) haven't their health insurance benefits cancelled due to a 'bug' supposedly with the contracted vendors (ADP or BCBS). the we later found out this wasn't a single event it had been going on for eight months.

The way the raises were so indelicately handled, the lack communication with the mayor and the commissioners over the raises, and the health insurance benefit being cancelled (without any public acknowledgement of root cause analysis and resolution) mess sounds more like a systemic problem to me. If he were in the private sector he would have already been canned. So thank goodness, Augusta Richmond County government apparently is a haven for people that seem to can't get it right.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/23/11 - 10:54 pm
0
0
So if everybody got a raise

So if everybody got a raise that would be good management? Or, if everybody knew that key personell were getting raises, that would be considered good management? How about if everybody's taxes went up....good management? Maybe, if everyone got a salary cut, say 5%, would that be good management? What possible scenario would have been able to demonstrate a good management decision that did not raise question for debate? Morale? If you have a job when 10 out of 100 is looking for one, give me a break. What kind of morale problem do you think those people have? Furlough days? How many paid vacation days does the average RC employee get each year? You simply can not judge a good manager this way. Tough love....

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 08/24/11 - 02:03 am
0
0
How's Fred's doing? How's

How's Fred's doing? How's A-RC operating? Don't ask me or Joe Blow- down-the-street. Rather, bring in competent, disinterested, out-of-state auditors to scrutinize and report on Fred's efforts as well as those of the city-county government itself - if you really want to know.

desertcat6
1140
Points
desertcat6 08/24/11 - 04:49 am
0
0
Did the report provide any

Did the report provide any metrics or data to support improved performance? Saving money is good, but if the reorg didn't make Augusta's government more effective in supporting the citizens Augusta may have taken a step in the wrong direction.

Buckys Friend
111
Points
Buckys Friend 08/24/11 - 05:15 am
0
0
How can you possibly justify

How can you possibly justify giving raises ( some enormous ) to a chosen few, when other employees who haven't had a raise for many years struggling to feed their families?

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/24/11 - 05:28 am
0
0
Presiding over the necessary

Presiding over the necessary downsizing of government jobs and services because a city hasn't grown over the last decade is not an easy job. I guess we have to blame someone.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/24/11 - 05:32 am
0
0
Augusta is going to bring in

Augusta is going to bring in a new administrator in the next few months is a given. Know how long he will last? Until Aitken is replaced by a black in that predominantly black district.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/24/11 - 05:59 am
0
0
So everyone that gets a

So everyone that gets a paycheck should get a raise? What? That is like every child that goes to school should get the same grades on tests. Does anything like like that make sense? How can being Santy Claus be good management and reducing next years budget by $2 million be reason to fire the boss? These economic times call for pragmatic solutions and tough decisions. Everyone wants more money. But Fred's job is to spend what he's got and save when he can.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 08/24/11 - 06:10 am
0
0
tom beck as head of parks and
Unpublished

tom beck as head of parks and rec should return his raise and insist it go back to refunding the boxing club and the community center that closed under his watch. i'm disgusted.

Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 08/24/11 - 06:40 am
0
0
One changed vote is not going

One changed vote is not going to bring about major change for the city, you have to have a solid block of six to do that consistently, and even if Matt Aitken's seat goes to a sympathetic minority who WANTS change that is opposed by the white commissioners you get back to a 5 - 5 split, which probably will not happen, because someone will abstain to prevent the Mayor from breaking a tie.

Long sentence.

BTW...if you think solid minority control of city government is going to bring about peaceful, happy change...I urge you to consider the track record of Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, etc. etc. etc.

The color of the controlling political force is not a factor in the relative honesty/serenity of the resulting government, that depends on the integrity and intellect of the individuals involved.

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