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Fred Russell to present balanced budget to commissioners

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 9:06 PM
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 1:26 AM
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City Administrator Fred Russell said he’ll present commissioners with a balanced 2013 budget that adds a dozen city jobs, gives city employees a lump-sum raise and won’t require a property tax increase.

Russell said he intends to reveal to commissioners at a work session today how he will close the gap on a $700 million spending plan that showed a $5 million shortfall when he presented it to commissioners last month.

Despite whatever tweaks Russell presents, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles called the budget proposal “kicking the can down the road” and one he’ll likely vote against.

“I was pretty disgusted last year when we needed to make some cuts and six commissioners didn’t want to address the issues,” said Bowles, a fiscal conservative.

Russell’s draft put general fund spending at $83.3 million, a $55,310 decrease from 2012, despite departmental requests exceeding $87 million. He budgeted $52.9 million for general fund law enforcement, a $1.7 million increase from 2012 and more than the sheriff’s office requested, according to budget documents.

The budget apparently makes no substantial adjustments to any department’s funding, or cuts in jobs or services.

Russell’s original draft proposed spending $4 million from the city’s reserves, which stand at about $25 million. The 2013 budget’s largest sources of general fund revenue are $8.2 million from real estate property taxes, $16.7 million from electric franchise taxes and $7.1 million from local option sales taxes, all of which are expected to be down from 2012.

The budget adds several new positions, including a “retail economic development specialist” to spearhead retail growth in neglected areas and a compliance specialist to review government contracts for the procurement department. The retail development position has a salary and benefits package of $78,465, and the compliance specialist would receive salary and benefits totaling $86,179.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, calling himself “a liberal Democrat,” said the compliance specialist might have kept the city out of ongoing contract trouble resulting from commission decisions to outsource the bus service and golf course. However, he added, too many questions about new expenses remain, such as the city’s recent switch to a self-funded employee health insurance pool and the opening of Augusta Convention Center, which is expected to operate at a loss.

“We might just go ahead and adopt this past year’s budget,” he said, “and when the new commission comes in we go back and revisit it.”

Depending upon the outcome of a runoff in District 1, there could be four new commissioners taking office in January.

Also yet to be felt is the impact of the state’s elimination of sales taxes on energy used in manufacturing and that of a proposed new stormwater fee to repair aging infrastructure, which must receive commission approval, Lockett said.

“We’re in a mess, and we’re one of the lowest-taxed cities in America,” he said.

Bowles, who leaves office in January, opposed adding the retail specialist or placing the compliance officer under procurement.

“I never think it’s a good idea for the government to take over a function that the private sector does much better,” he said.

Bowles said he preferred adding a compliance officer in the law department. Otherwise, the officer would be “reviewing contracts for someone who supervises them,” he said.

While Russell’s budget adds several other positions in the public defender, district attorney, probate judge and marshal’s offices, it omits new positions in departments Bowles said needed them – the tax assessor’s office and licensing and inspections.

“If you put the money there, it’s going to pay for itself,” he said.

IF YOU GO

The first of two commission budget work sessions starts at 3 p.m. today in the Lee Beard Commission Chamber on the eighth floor of the Augusta Municipal Building, 530 Greene St. The second will start at 4 p.m. Monday.

Comments (13) Add comment
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dichotomy
33010
Points
dichotomy 11/14/12 - 11:40 pm
3
0
Hey, if you hire that

Hey, if you hire that compliance person, see if they can read and comprehend the GA state law on property tax systems and the fact that you can't tax people in the same consolidated county differently. Oh yeh, have them check that little tidbit about putting separate garbage fees for SOME residents on their tax bill. Apparently our commissioners can't read and/or understand it and certainly have not complied with it.

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 11/14/12 - 11:44 pm
2
0
Matt Aitken

I hope Matt goes to the budget workshops, and pays attention this time, so that he does not vote to lay off some 30 employees again without having any knowledge of what he was doing. Prior planning prevents poor performance. Matt does no prior planning, so all he has left is poor performance.

willie7
955
Points
willie7 11/15/12 - 12:21 am
3
0
Matt is a goner. The first
Unpublished

Matt is a goner. The first district people are going to vote him out
because he hasn't been anything but a robot.
Good bye Matt!!!

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/15/12 - 05:56 am
3
0
Positions

The budget adds several new positions, including a “retail economic development specialist” to spearhead retail growth in neglected areas and a compliance specialist to review government contracts for the procurement department.

Why do they need a retail economic development specialist? They have the commissioners and Fred Russell that do very well looking out for the neglected areas.

And a compliance specialist to review government contracts? Who has been reviewing them all these years?

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 11/15/12 - 07:40 am
4
0
Matt Aitken

Taken from Matt Aitken district one home page website; www.votemattaitken.com
Matt wants to continue including the people of District One in the process of developing Augusta to its full potential (www.votemattaitken.com.) Inclusion of district 1 citizens in the developing process of Augusta reaching its full potential is what Matt Aitken is preaching, but his actions show something totally different.
• On 11/15/2011, Matt Aitken, Commissioner for the Laney Walker District proceeded to vote to allow an Overlay Zone for the Laney Walker area without attending ONE public hearing, finding out what it was about, making sure that his constituents were well informed, and assuring that all documents for the application were in order.

• Aitken has repeatedly voted against audits investigating the TEE center and parking deck debacle.

• Aitken has taken great interest in trying to get a new ballpark built for Ripken Baseball, despite this ranking very low on the priority list for most District 1 constituents.

• Aitken has a habit of keeping his constituents out of the loop on key issues. One instance is the Opportunity Zone for Harrisburg, a motion that Aitken put on the commission agenda. The problem is he neglected to inform the residents of Harrisburg, which falls in his district. State law requires public hearings before these opportunity zones are put into effect. That was never done and residents were never informed. It was all done under the radar with no public input.

• Aitken is consistently absent from committee meetings and he rarely asks questions at regular commission meetings. It is also obvious that Aitken is clueless on many of the items that come before the commission. If there is one glaring example of this it is the budget that was hurriedly passed last fall. Aitken voted for the budget, not realizing it contained over 30 lay-offs. He was even under the impression that it contained raises. Had Mr. Aitken even bothered to read key elements of the budget before voting on it? Apparently not. Isn't that the job of a commissioner? To know what he is voting on?

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/15/12 - 08:24 am
3
0
Really?
Unpublished

“retail economic development specialist” to spearhead retail growth in neglected areas and a compliance specialist to review government contracts for the procurement department...I thought it was the commission's job to develop these areas? Talk about more micro managing. As far as the procurement compliance specialist? What the heck do you have a director for? If you have to add a position because they are not doing their job then FIRE THEM!! This isn't rocket science. Geesh this city just throws dollar after dollar on stupidity!!!

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 11/15/12 - 09:13 am
2
0
Hello hello

The budget adds several new positions, including a “retail economic development specialist” to spearhead retail growth in neglected areas and a compliance specialist to review government contracts for the procurement department.

Say what.....in neglected areas....hello...something is fishy here.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/15/12 - 09:31 am
1
0
Budget items:
Unpublished

#1 Commissioners performance bonuses
#2 Out going commissioners severance packages
#3 Out going and incoming commissioners relocation packages
#4 Dekester and Fredster performance bonuses
#5 Asphalt and Concrete procurement
#6 Additional new ARC government buildings
#7 Additional new ARC government entertainment venues
#8 Additional fees to boost revenues ( not taxes)
#9 Add more ARC jobs that have no value added or over site
#10 Fully fund the CBD Realty Gourp, LLC for the selling of downtown

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 11/15/12 - 09:37 am
2
0
Matt Aitken

In 2009 it was thought that Matt Aitken would be a bridge builder and bridge the gaps that existed in district 1; but here we are 3 years later, and the gaps are still there in the form of flooding, deterioration of the infrastructure, dilapidated homes, crime and the lack of an adequate transit system. On election night 2012, 60% of the citizens of district 1 asked for change, so let’s make that happen.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/15/12 - 10:07 am
3
0
Huh!

Quoting:
"We’re in a mess, and we’re one of the lowest-taxed cities in America,”

Are we talking apples to apples demographically alike size cities and without union gov workers? Or is this a test balloon to open a door for TAX increase discussions based on skewed data elements?

Real figures.

Sales Taxes
ARC = 7.00%
US AVG = 5.00%

Income Taxes (city/State)
ARC/GA = 6.00%
US AVG = 4.70%

According Best-data & Taxpayer Assoc, A-RC is higher than the national average.
If you are higher than the national average how can you be one of the lowest in the USA?

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/15/12 - 11:00 am
1
0
One crooked politicans at a time
Unpublished

voted out. Several out by time limits. All will be back. And how do they sit beside one another in the house of God? Guess the preacher is talking about the budget, the latest entertainment offering and plans for building a new addition.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/15/12 - 11:35 am
0
1
Surpluses and shortfalls,
Unpublished

deficits are just nebulous terms in ARC. Fred defines same at will and the king and his court eat it up. We need money. Oh, I found it over here and over there. No problem. Do they print US currency at city hall? If so, the three dollars bill has a picture of Fred Russell in the center.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/15/12 - 12:54 pm
0
1
Is countyman a robot with Fred's brain and Deke's money?
Unpublished

Someone on this merry go round knows. Call him out. Speak his name. It is not Austin. Is it Deke? Is it Mrs. Deke? Is it Fred? Is it Billy or Paul or Bob B? Or Margaret?

A process of elimination.

Is not African American. Wrong priorities.
Is not Asian. They are working and getting an education.
Is not female and interesting in shopping, a la retail stores.
Is interested in a Buckhead/Soho like new hippies art enclave.
Is interested in intimate bars and trendy small restaurants.
Is not interested in issues related to children.
Is interested in a reinvented central district.
Is interested in owning the culture of the CBD.
Is interested in living inside the CBD with like minded.

Yes, Holmes?

countyman, an Anglo gay man who owns a small, artsy, trendy bar with eclectic taste whose life companion owns a lot of real estate in the CBD. "Not that there is anything wrong with that."

corgimom
32599
Points
corgimom 11/15/12 - 12:06 pm
1
0
Retail sales specialist? For

Retail sales specialist? For corn's sake, we're in a deep recession with no end in sight, people are struggling to pay their mortgage and put gas in their car and heat their houses, and RC wants to build more stores? With all the Internet competition, and the trend is for people to spend more money shopping on line, not less?

This is absolute, pure CRAZINESS.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/15/12 - 12:06 pm
2
0
You won't see...
Unpublished

Countyman quote that statistic Open...

Bulldog
1326
Points
Bulldog 11/15/12 - 12:06 pm
2
0
Be careful what you wish for...

jwilliams suggests that Matt Aitkin needs to go, but the only other choice is Bill Fennoy. The black community did not support Fennoy like they did other candidates in the recent election. There is a reason for this. They don't like or trust him! Just ask around... Talk about a 1960's attitude! He's got it big time!

Brad Owens
4449
Points
Brad Owens 11/15/12 - 12:19 pm
1
0
NO cuts?

"The budget apparently makes no substantial adjustments to any department’s funding, or cuts in jobs or services."

And these's the giveaway!

Brad Owens
4449
Points
Brad Owens 11/15/12 - 12:20 pm
1
0
Bulldog is correct...

Good comments and 100% correct as far as my information that I have.

catawba7
319
Points
catawba7 11/15/12 - 12:57 pm
1
0
Lose the senior clown

Lose Fred Russell, he is a problem creator and not a problem solver. This man constantly creates issues which cause the citizens of RC to become separated from their money. Lose him from RC government and bring in new commissioners and maybe we will see an improved government. This is getting ridiculous! Good Luck Mr. A, hope you stay in Dist. 1.

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 11/15/12 - 10:01 pm
0
0
Matt Aitken

Taken from an article by Susan McCord submitted in the Augusta Chronicle on 11/2/2012
“A graduate of Leadership Augusta with the financial backing of the city’s white power brokers, Aitken said he has campaigned on moving the city forward, especially when it comes to construction projects such as the Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center, and expanding downtown events.”
I repeat 3 years later, and the gaps are still there in the form of flooding, deterioration of the infrastructure, dilapidated homes, crime and the lack of an adequate transit system. I guess since ALL these problems aren’t affecting the “city’s white power brokers” (Augusta Chronicle, 2012), its plain to see why the forward movement of the city has not occurred in East Augusta, Marion Homes, Sand Hill, Harrisburg and Cherry Tree Crossing. And oh by the way, I guess none of the 30 some employees that were laid off would be a part of the “city’s white power brokers” (Augusta Chronicle, 2012.)
You may assume and make accusations about Mr. Fennoy not being trusted or liked, but it is an actual, self proven fact, and it is also obvious that Aitken is clueless on many of the items that come before the commission. If there is one glaring example of this it is the budget that was hurriedly passed last fall. Aitken voted for the budget, not realizing it contained over 30 lay-offs. He was even under the impression that it contained raises. Had Mr. Aitken even bothered to read key elements of the budget before voting on it? Apparently not. Isn't that the job of a commissioner? To know what he is voting on? If you do not believe me go to You Tube and pull up, “Matt Aitken Deer in Headlights Moment (WRDW News 12)” and let him tell you himself how clueless he is.

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