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City budget has $8.5 million hole

Russell asks for budget cuts to make up the funding

Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 8:21 PM
Last updated Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 1:51 AM
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A proposed budget by City Ad­min­istrator Fred Russell closes no facilities, cuts no services, eliminates no positions and even gives all employees an across-the-board $1,500 pay increase.

However, the $683.7 million proposal comes up $8.5 million short on revenue.

To make up the shortfall, Russell is asking department heads to find ways to further cut their budgets.

Commissioners, who do not have any scheduled meetings in the next week, have until Nov. 19 to reach an agreement on cuts to balance the budget.

Georgia requires county budgets be balanced.

Russell has rejected dozens of departmental requests for new personnel, including 35 positions sought by the Engineering Department, which maintains city roads and rights of way, and a new 18-member tree department to maintain the city’s trees.

Instead, he approved the creation of 30 positions: a procurement compliance officer, four district attorney personnel, six assistant public defenders, a gas system technician for waste management, three transit employees and 15 part- and full-time airport personnel.

Russell said he opted for an across-the-board pay increase over the numerous departmental requests for staff increases, many funded by eliminating vacant positions, because it was simpler than implementing performance-based increases citywide.

The proposal included a surprise for most commissioners: six new staff members for Augusta Municipal Golf Course, whose management will soon be put out for bids for a third time after efforts to secure a private management firm or partner with The First Tee of Augusta failed.

Russell said he included money for “The Patch” in case the bid process fails again.

If the commission votes to privatize the course, “here’s that money,” he said.

Other potential targets for cuts in the proposal might be the $300,000 allotted for Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s Augusta Regional Collabo­ra­tion Project; $675,000 for a new study of disparities in the city’s award of contracts to women and minorities, which will eventually be needed to re-implement a race- or gender-conscious program; and $1.1 million to further renovate the former Regional Youth Detention Center for the sheriff’s office.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said outsourcing the Patch and not adding the new golf positions was a no-brainer, but he and several other commissioners said they’d take the weekend and the coming week to study the document further.

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bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 10/18/13 - 08:59 pm
5
0
$8.5 million! Seriously? I

$8.5 million! Seriously? I think its long overdue to start chopping heads of departments for not doing their jobs. That's all we need for 35 more city employees riding around all day in brand new trucks. When will this madness stop? God help us and our Country.

Little Lamb
43990
Points
Little Lamb 10/18/13 - 09:51 pm
5
0
Larceny

It was not long ago (say, about the time Andy Cheek left the commission) when the city could get a reliable consultant study for $65,000. Now, it seems, every single study they commission runs right around the half-million dollar mark. It is outrageous that our commissioners do not shop around for consultants using the bidding process and choosing the lowest bidder.

That ridiculous "gateway" study by the guy from Massachusetts started the raid on the treasury. Once he set the bar at $400,000, the price has been steadily going up.

Stop the bleeding, commissioners!

tckr1983
360
Points
tckr1983 10/18/13 - 10:12 pm
6
0
just an opinion
2382
Points
just an opinion 10/18/13 - 11:00 pm
6
0
Clerk of Commission?

This job is vacant. Eliminate the $82,000 still being spent there.

Dixieman
13060
Points
Dixieman 10/19/13 - 03:37 pm
7
0
Dixieman's 10-point plan to balance the budget

1. Turn Ellis Street into a canal and pretend Augusta is Venice.
2. Raise taxes, more people move to Columbia County, less demand for services. (This is happening anyway - just accelerate the trend and go with it!)
3. Sell the Wells Fargo building. (I know Augusta doesn't own it, but just spend the proceeds quickly, go bankrupt, and then claim ignorance when the angry buyers come back looking for a refund).
4. Fine Dr. Azziz $8.5 million for angrying up the blood of so many in the community.
5. Ask Bob Young how to fix it so he can write a column in the Chronicle. (All his recent activity -- he's running for something, just can't figure out what it is yet). Shamelessly steal his ideas and put him in charge of the project.
6. Write to former Compass Academy donors and ask them to contribute to a better cause.
7. Rename Augusta "AffordableObamaCare" and then ask the President for a Federal grant. Bet we get one from that egomaniac. Remember how "Truth or Consequences" in New Mexico got its name?
8. D-Day landing and invasion and annexation of North Augusta. Tax everyone there double.
9. Magic wand? Budget Fairy? Tarot cards and eye of newt? Something along those lines. Levitate money out of peoples' pockets.
10. Augusta Aquarium and Zoo project. On Ellis Street.
11. All of the above. (I know this is the 11th point in a 10-point plant, but so what if I'm over budget? It's only 10%)

Riverman1
79697
Points
Riverman1 10/19/13 - 06:46 am
5
0
Hahaha....Good post,

Hahaha....Good post, Dixieman!

seenitB4
81877
Points
seenitB4 10/19/13 - 06:47 am
5
0
What insanity

$675,000 for a new study of disparities in the city’s award of contracts to women and minorities

A county that is majority black....geez.

seenitB4
81877
Points
seenitB4 10/19/13 - 06:48 am
3
0
dixieman...the best item

. Raise taxes, more people move to Columbia County, less demand for services. (This is happening anyway - just accelerate the trend and go with it!)

Yeh..that will do it!

bumblebeerose
669
Points
bumblebeerose 10/19/13 - 06:52 am
4
0
It is time everyone pays county taxes

This should not be left to just property owners!!!! Everyone that lives in Richmond County should have to pay they uses the roads and other services provided by the county.

Here is my plan

Add an extra $5.00 to car tags, now any one that owns property is exempt from this tax, the money will be divided this way
$1.00 to the Board of Education
$1.00 to Parks and Recreation
$1.00 to the Sheriff's Department
$1.00 to the Fire Department
$1.00 to the water department for the rain water tax.

There are a lot of people in Richmond County that have cars this should offset the budget problems and help with not having to increase taxes on already over taxed property owners.

Riverman1
79697
Points
Riverman1 10/19/13 - 07:02 am
6
0
Call Dave Ramsey

Fred has this attitude that it's ONLY $8.5 million. He gives out millions in raises while the bills can't be paid. Does this makes sense at all? Can you imagine a caller to the Dave Ramsey show saying he was a manager and wanted to pay the employees more, but he was millions in debt? Dave would say the caller has a serious lack of understanding of how to run a business. He would pray for the manager and tell him that he and the employees should eat Ramen noodles for a few years while he learns how to run things without going in debt. Of course we all know that won’t happen in Ho Chi Minh City.

seenitB4
81877
Points
seenitB4 10/19/13 - 07:02 am
5
1
RENT PROPERTY

Why not add a $10 fee to all who rent....add this to any cars they might own. I understand that gov housing have not been paying any kind of tax, soo this a way to even up the score..(somewhat)

jmo
14410
Points
jmo 10/19/13 - 07:01 am
5
0
If they can't find a .......

way to trim department expenses, they can always tax the sheep. It will "only cost the average homeowner" a "few" more dollars per month. SOS

seenitB4
81877
Points
seenitB4 10/19/13 - 07:04 am
5
0
Dave Ramsey

That guy would have a heart attack if he actually had to deal with this county ..haha

nocnoc
38708
Points
nocnoc 10/19/13 - 07:38 am
2
0
No No No No Fred

It is suppose to be:
Determine if there is a absolute need vs. want,
Initial review of the budget,
Does it fit into the budget Yes/No,
Purpose the issue to the Commission 1st,
Commission conducts a careful review the budget,

Commission gives a Yes/No for further consideration and places the item on the meeting agenda and makes a public announcement.

Details of the TAX INCREASE proposal are presented to the Voters.

A public forum and Debate is held and the results modify the proposal as needed,

But unless it is an emergency,this is how Taxpayer money spent. THEN and ONLY THEN Spend.

Spending before Revenue, is nothing more than placing the Commission's back to the wall to balance a budget.

A Budget hole, shows a City Administrator either has Tinkle Poor Planning, or a mentality to circumvent the Commission's approval process forcing his Spending wants on the people. OR the Commission is using him as a Smoke Screen and Whipping boy to protect themselves.

Which is it to you?

T-Minus

157 Days as of 7:29AM
13,564,800 seconds
226,080 minutes
3768 hours

OR SOONER

Because, Christmas in the North Ga. Mountains is a lot more appealing than in a Slum.

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 10/19/13 - 07:38 am
4
0
SO is anyone going to tell them that

white people are the minority and if they don't give them contracts it's discrimination? Augusta is 8.5 million in the hole. Which is about right because it is run by a few.....well you get the picture....

Little Lamb
43990
Points
Little Lamb 10/19/13 - 07:41 am
2
1
Gateway Toll

Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that man behind the tree!

Augusta could implement a Gateway Toll. Put toll booths on the 13th St. bridge, the 5th St. bridge, and the Gordon Hwy. bridge. Put a toll booth on Riverwatch Parkway at I-20. Put a toll booth on Washington Rd. at I-20. Put a toll booth on Bobby Jones at I-20. Put a toll booth on Gordon Hwy. at Robinson Rd.

The goal would be to tax Columbia Countians and South Carolinians who work in our fair city.

Of course, some Richmond Countians would end up paying the tolls every now and then. They could implement a rebate program on our property tax bills in November to partially offset the tolls for Richmond County property owners.

nocnoc
38708
Points
nocnoc 10/19/13 - 07:40 am
2
0
Good Morning GnipGnop & Little Lamb

I see, as usual for a Saturday Morning we are in a target rich environment.

Riverman1
79697
Points
Riverman1 10/19/13 - 07:45 am
6
0
LL, as a Columbia County

LL, as a Columbia County resident, I'm not only for putting up toll booths between the counties, but I'm all for putting up electrified fences and checkpoints between the two counties.

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 10/19/13 - 07:46 am
3
0
Good morning!

Heading out to a ride in a bit for a friend that lost his son...hug your kids. They can be gone in a instant.

nocnoc
38708
Points
nocnoc 10/19/13 - 07:56 am
3
0
LL - Instead parking meters

Why not put a wall up around Downtown?

1. It might keep the constant flow of Southside Taxpayer $$$$ from draining off.
2. It will control Crime and Gang Activities.
3. Impose a Wall Building fee on all of ARC.
4. Collect a $5.00 per person to use downtown fee to cover upkeep and make it mandatory like our garbage bills.
5. Hire 5 of 6 LOCAL consultants with employed commissioner family members to design a Brick wall @ $5 to $6 million.
6. RFP the materials from local minority sources and families.
7. RFP the labor pool and sub-contracting to Columbia Co. & Burke Co.
8. Hire a company to collect the gate fee's

9. Then 1 night sneak in and plug all the drains and sewers, then sit back and watch as the money pit and Cess pool finally overflows.

Little Lamb
43990
Points
Little Lamb 10/19/13 - 08:08 am
2
0
Lazy

Just look at this:

Russell said he opted for an across-the-board pay increase . . . because it was simpler than implementing performance-based increases citywide.

Because it was simpler! Fred doesn't want to implement performance-based pay scales in Augusta. That's because Fred is averse to real work for himself or for his managers. It is time for Fred to start worrying.

While you are out and about this weekend, pick up a copy of the free weekly newspaper in the yellow box. Its reporter gives an additional reason why Fred is seeking across the board pay increases. It gives another insight into the twisted thinking of Russell.

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 10/19/13 - 08:07 am
1
0
Why not just move

the commission chambers to the sewage treatment plant...same results but a lot quicker...

Little Lamb
43990
Points
Little Lamb 10/19/13 - 08:10 am
2
0
Anaerobic

I like it, GnipGnop. They could hold commission meetings inside the anaerobic digester.

raul
4179
Points
raul 10/19/13 - 08:13 am
1
0
300K for the Collaboration

300K for the Collaboration project. I thought the Commission contributed 100K and the rest came from private donations?

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 10/19/13 - 08:14 am
2
0
Bulldog
1307
Points
Bulldog 10/19/13 - 08:51 am
1
0
Car Tag Tax

The tag tax sounds like a great idea! An excellent way to help stem the never ending flow of property tax increases. It lets just about everyone in on the fun. However, the real issue is the failure of our County Commission to exercise any real leadership. No foresight and an amazing lack of a basic knowledge set. We apparently have a government with employees who can't do their jobs and need to outsource every project that comes along. Blind leading the blind...

dichotomy
30755
Points
dichotomy 10/19/13 - 09:14 am
1
0
"Now, it seems, every single

"Now, it seems, every single study they commission runs right around the half-million dollar mark"

Well, you just need a LOT more "consulting" as the number of dumb as a rock commissioners increase. I mean, there IS a reason for Detroit. And, of course, the price of "consulting" has to increase when the consultant has to build in the kickbacks and salaries for friends and family members.

corgimom
28318
Points
corgimom 10/19/13 - 09:30 am
3
0
Gee, it's so hard for me to

Gee, it's so hard for me to believe that there's a $8.5 million gap, when according to Countyman, the county is doing so well. I guess the Cookout, Costco, and a new movie theatre just isn't enough.

triscuit
2871
Points
triscuit 10/19/13 - 09:42 am
0
0
As long as Geri SAMs is head

As long as Geri SAMs is head of Procurement, any "study" regarding awards of bids and contracts is a huge waste of money. I would buy a ticket to see her job performance appraisal...if she ever had one.

Sweet son
9716
Points
Sweet son 10/19/13 - 11:42 am
0
0
And as a part of this deficit spending Fred wants to give all

of the city employees a $1500 raise. This money should at least be deducted from the higher ups salaries!

It will be made up by taking money from 'our' savings account! I wonder exactly how much money the City has in it's savings accounts?

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