Augusta Commission approves 34 job cuts

After public individual interviews with each of four finalists for Sarasota County administrator, Fred Russell received only one vote from the five Sarasota County commissioners.

The man who suggested that the Augusta Commission cut 34 jobs to help balance next year’s budget said Wednesday that he was surprised the group approved it so quickly.

City Administrator Fred Russell, returning from an interview for a similar position in Sarasota County, Fla., said he expected the commission to receive the 2012 budget plan as information Tuesday, recess the meeting and vote on it later.

Instead, after three commissioners walked out of Tuesday’s commission meeting, those remaining quickly voted 6-1 to approve the plan, which calls for sweeping percentage reductions across all departments, $300,000 savings from further reorganization and the elimination of 34 filled positions.

Commissioner Matt Aitken said he didn’t recall the job cuts being discussed at a Nov. 10 budget workshop he and six other commissioners attended. At the workshop, those present appeared to reach a consensus on making the cuts and a few additions from a menu of items presented by Russell. Commissioners Alvin Mason, Corey Johnson and J.R. Hatney were not present.

Thirty-four is a number Russell says he arrived at by dividing $1 million, a round amount he sought to trim from the general fund budget shortfall, by $30,000, a typical city employee salary.

The administrator, who missed the Tuesday meeting because of the job interview, said those who will lose their jobs have not been determined. Russell told commissioners at the Nov. 10 workshop that all departments, including those headed by elected officials, should be considered, except the sheriff’s office.

Positions subject to the reduction in force need to be decided within 30 days so the entire 2012 budget savings can be realized, Russell said Wednesday.

Some could come from the fire department, where a reorganization likely will target several battalion chiefs as a fourth city battalion is eliminated. The rest are unknown, but Russell has a meeting scheduled with department heads this morning to discuss ways to cut.

“He’s the administrator; that’s his job to task that,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.

One city department head said the cuts would be tough.

“We’re streamlined to where there’s no fat; we’re cutting muscle now,” said Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck, whose reconfigured department recently took on dozens of personnel and lost others in Russell’s reorganization plan.

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