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Library, election chiefs make budget requests

Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 8:28 PM
Last updated Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 1:41 AM
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City department heads and elected officials continued their pleas for more money from Augusta Commission members at a fourth budget workshop Thursday.

Nearly all who have participated in the work sessions have requested salary increases for staff. City Administrator Fred Russell promised Thursday that he’ll recommend across-the-board pay increases when he presents a final budget to the commission next week.

Darlene Price, the executive director of the East Central Georgia Regional Library System, made no bones about the need for extra money to maintain, supply and staff the system’s six libraries in Richmond County.

“We’re asking for almost two times as much,” she said.

The new main library continues to run higher utility bills than the old one. Through technical help, the library has managed to get its monthly power bills down to around $15,000 a month, Price said.

The Appleby Branch occupies a historic mansion built in 1830. The Maxwell Branch is 40 years old, while the historic Wallace Branch on Laney-Walker Boulevard is 55 years old, she said.

“Every time there’s a heavy rain, we have to spend money. It never fails,” she said.

The library’s total 2014 request of $4.59 million includes $654,000 for facility maintenance, $1.95 million for personnel and $75,000 to create a “mini library” on a heavily traveled section of Gordon Highway, she said.

The library system’s state operating funds are “drying up,” Price said, and now range around $500,000 as counties have left the system, which now includes only Richmond and Burke counties. The state offers grants for repairs, and Price’s request included matching funds to obtain them.

A big election year for Richmond County means a big budget request from Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.

In addition to state and federal races, the department will conduct elections for five Augusta commissioners, five school board members and a mayor next year. Each regular citywide election costs about $100,000, Bailey said.

New Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson said the department is benefiting from a review by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government to determine “what a premier planning department would look like.” Results will be in soon and likely will be used for the department to finalize its budget requests, she said.

The department generated about $13 million in revenue from fees last year, despite being understaffed in its inspection division, said Wilson, who requested a cost-of-living adjustment of up to 5 percent for staff.

Employees have been using their personal cellphones to conduct city business and paying for their own training, items that need to be addressed, she said.

“It’s really important to recognize the value of our employees,” Wilson said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said he understood why employees wanted pay increases but questioned whether all, including those awarded pay increases behind the scenes, needed them.

“We do have some people who are being paid a lot closer to what they deserve than other people,” Lockett said.

The city’s general fund budget was $141 million last year. Combined with other funds, including enterprise, grant and sales tax funds, the total budget was about $700 million.

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jmo
15458
Points
jmo 10/10/13 - 09:17 pm
4
0
It will......

only be a few more dollars a month on a homeowner. BS!

GnipGnop
11905
Points
GnipGnop 10/10/13 - 09:22 pm
6
1
Fred never met

a property tax increase he didn't like...neither has the inept commission...Augusta is sure moving forward...
right off the edge of a cliff.

TCB22
622
Points
TCB22 10/10/13 - 09:47 pm
4
0
Do we still need libraries?

It seems that libraries are primarily used for their computers. Why not redesign and retire those elements that have outlived their usefulness. People download books in the cheap these days. You dint just keep doing something year after year and not change with the times.

Little Lamb
45360
Points
Little Lamb 10/10/13 - 09:53 pm
6
1
More, More, More

Every bureaucrat asks for more money. Not a single commissioner steps up to the plate to cut unnecessary services, unnecessary programs. Not a single question about which staff can be reduced.

The elections commission can cut a lot of money by increasing the size of the precincts. Of course, some people might have to stand in line for ten minutes instead of two minutes.

And the $15,000 a month utility bill for the library. Now we find out that Fred (What, me worry?) Russell built a new library without energy-saving features. Same old wasteful buildings. I'm sure the Ruff House is just as energy inefficient.

These officials and bureaucrats do not care for you or me. They just want more, more, more.

dichotomy
32136
Points
dichotomy 10/10/13 - 11:36 pm
3
0
"City department heads and

"City department heads and elected officials continued their pleas for more money from Augusta Commission"

How about this headline:

Richmond County residents continued their pleas for the Augusta Commission to NOT raise property taxes, to NOT raise millage rates, to NOT raise our garbage fees, and to NOT put a RAIN TAX on us. WE CAN ONLY STAND SO MUCH. Similar message to the BOE school tax wasters.

"The library system’s state operating funds are “drying up,” .............as counties have left the system, which now includes only Richmond and Burke counties."

Well, that is what happens when the "Regional" funding was so disproportionately disbursed and completely mismanaged that the other counties virtually got nothing....so they pulled out at their first opportunity. Besides, I've been around to a couple of these libraries and it ain't like they are really being used by anyone. I think we are blowing a BUNCH of money on a sparsely used "nice to have".

janderson1945
1843
Points
janderson1945 10/11/13 - 01:24 am
3
0
Libraries

Every school and college campus has a library and the internet has made many libraries obsolete. The funding for libraries should be cut drastically and whoever approved building a library building where the utilities would be 15k per month should be terminated. Study department by department and issues salary increases if/when justified compared to other similar businesses or agencies of government vs. the easy way of Mr. Russell who just says give them all a raise. Out of everything though, the libraries are the worst, cut their funding and shut 1/2 of them down as they are just not needed.

AmerCitz
4
Points
AmerCitz 10/11/13 - 11:28 am
2
0
Libraries

Libraries are still important for people who are literate. The buildings aren't as important as what is in them. Lately, the Augusta Libraries haven't been getting any new books. That is what makes a library. That and the personnel that works with the public. At $75k, that request must be for a computer center, not a library. Do any of the commission use the library? Do any of the library board. I think the appointments to the library board reflect the feelings of the commission. In other words, they don't know much about what is going on either. Talk to some of the people who work there. Do they get support from the director or the board? The money doesn't go for books but for parties and other foolishness.

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 10/11/13 - 04:29 pm
0
0
I've got an idea.
Unpublished

Raise taxes on the people actually paying taxes, who deserve to vote. Let those who live off the ones who work do the voting, as is the custom in a welfare state. Those welfare lifers get the right to vote for people who advocate giving them more money. My real solution would be; a worker gets to vote, a welfare recipient needs to get off of the dole before he/she votes because they vote for people who reward laziness, drug dealing and prostitution. If you're a drain on society, as many gubmint "workers" and welfare recipients are, your horse in the race, me, is getting tired of paying your way.

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