Augusta Commission delays budget cuts until retreat

 

The Augusta Commission delayed implementation of about $2.5 million in budget cuts set to end some youth recreation programs and eliminate 34 jobs, but agreed to move forward with the prospect of outsourcing its Human Resources Department.

During a three-hour meeting Tuesday, Mayor Deke Copenhaver broke a 5-5 tie to approve holding off making the cuts, which were needed to balance the 2012 budget already in process, until a Feb. 16-17 commission retreat.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was “not uncomfortable” with looking at transferring $1.5 million from the city’s savings and an additional $1 million from projected new property tax revenue available when the assessor's office implements new technology to cover the shortfall as he and the commission re-examine where precisely to make the cuts.

Commissioner Corey Johnson’s motion to do that was supported by commissioners Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett, J.R. Hatney and Grady Smith.

Opposing the move, Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he “had a real problem with spending imaginary dollars,” meaning the anticipated revenue from the tax office.

Also opposed, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said city government ought to be “run like a business” that delivers what citizens need and eliminates waste.

After a presentation from ADP representative Randy Welch, the commission also voted 10-0 for Russell to obtain a price quote and contract with the human resources firm, although it will mean the elimination of several city human resources jobs.

Russell said he supported the move because “the status quo in my mind is not good enough.” Welch said the move will reduce Augusta’s costs by about 40 percent and all services will be provided by ADP’s large Augusta Solution Center.

Lockett said he wanted the proposal to come through the Administrative Services Committee he chairs, and Russell said it would.

 

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