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Staffing numbers don't bear out charges of bloat in city government

Friday, Aug 15, 2014 8:15 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 17, 2014 2:21 AM
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Arguments about bloat and excess in city government might not discourage Augusta leaders from voting Tuesday to increase property taxes.

According to the city’s data, current staffing is below levels from 16 years ago, immediately after consolidation of the city and county, though spending has increased overall 11 percent faster than inflation.

In a 1998 report, total positions for the consolidated government numbered 2,668, including 894 authorized for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. The city general fund and law enforcement budget for the year was $90.9 million - or $129 million in today’s dollars.

Fast-forward to April of this year, the latest data available, and Augusta has a full-time staff of 2,426, with 692 in the sheriff’s office, although some positions remain unfilled across most departments.

As commissioners prepare to raise the countywide property tax rate by 1.75 mills to 9.788 mills, the annual general fund and law enforcement budget is $143 million. The increase will raise $7.9 million through what amounts to a $122.50 annual increase for the owner of a $200,000 home. That’s a relative increase of 11 percent since 1998.

For comparison, in Columbia County, the 6.4-mill tax rate funds a government of just under 1,100 employees, despite a fast-growing suburban population estimated at around 140,000, 60,000 fewer than slower-growing Augusta.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Of­fice employs about 200 people. County government services get a boost from the growing municipal governments of Grovetown and Harlem.

Other Georgia cities more closely resemble Augusta in size of government.

In Columbus, where the population slightly exceeds Augusta’s, the consolidated city-county government has 2,580 full-time employees, according to published data. Its tax rate is 16.93 mills.

In Macon, which consolidated with Bibb County this year, the population of about 155,000 has a local government staff of around 2,100, according to spokesman Chris Floore. Macon-Bibb’s tax rate is 12 mills.

The commission will hold a third and final public hearing on the tax increase at 1:30 p.m. Tues­day in the commission chamber at the Municipal Building, then intends to set the mill rate at a called 2 p.m. meeting.

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TrulyWorried 08/16/14 - 01:22 pm
What's the use

they (government) will do what they want to - no matter what department is concerned. Don't know how they manage to do it - but they do! And be sure to pay your taxes.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/16/14 - 01:52 pm
Bad Headline

I love Susan McCord, but this story misses the mark. Here is an excerpt:

According to the city’s data, current staffing is below levels from 16 years ago, immediately after consolidation of city and county, though spending has increased overall 11 percent faster than inflation.

In the first place, immediately before consolidation we had two independent governments, two law enforcement agencies (three, if you count the school system police squad), two governmental water utility departments, and a governmental trash collection agency in the city. Consolidation was promoted to eliminate duplication in those areas. So we would expect that there would be fewer employees sixteen years later. We also expect that elimination of duplication would result in a lower overall budget.

You cannot use the city + county government employee list before consolidation (or immediately after for that matter) to draw a conclusion that today's government employee numbers are not bloated. Nor can you draw a conclusion by comparing us to other cities. It is entirely possible (even likely, I would add) that both Richmond County and Muscogee County are bloated with county government employees.

nocnoc 08/17/14 - 06:56 am
Little Lamb - makes a good point

While I am BIG proponent of DECONSOLIDATION because the unifed government flat is not dealing out services fairly, evenly nor looking at the county as a whole.

But let us see a chart showing the DUPLICATE JOBs for the city and the county departments, then give us a number for the consolidated dept. now.

Looking at the inflation adjusted Increased Budget shows about a $14M adjusted increase. But that does not take into account the MILLIONS in OVERSPENDING that BONDS are hiding.


It comes as no surprise since the since 1996 FOCUS has been dumping $$$$$$ into the DOWNTOWN Money Pit trying to keep it breathing using County taxpayer $$$$$$.

Any one care to start a 10 Ft long Scroll listing all the waste and stupid ideas

But just using budget #'s is NOT telling to whole story.
How much has been overspent (BONDS)
You know that other pot of money that gambled ARC would become a MEGA-CITY and the Middle class would flock to ARC. Bonds that help hide or lessen the impact or cover up "accidental" Project overruns, mistakes and political/contractor skim agreements.

Want a put an end to it MOVE because a recall will not fix almost 20 years of mistakes that the taxpayer are now indebted to pay.

However there is another process, get 10% of the voting ARC residents of any District to sign a properly drafted petition for a BINDING voter question to place the De-Consolidation Question on a ballot.

But the overall solution is simple: Stink or get off the pot

corgimom 08/17/14 - 07:47 am
Noc noc- The List Golf Hall

Noc noc- The List

Golf Hall of Fame
Port Royal
"Revitalization" of Downtown
TEE Center
Parking Deck
Useless "studies"- mills, trolleys, "master plans"
Money given to the CVB that squanders it and doesn't book any decent conventions anyway
Matt K
Incompetent commissioners
Security for Riverwalk
The amphitheater that nobody goes to, because the steps are too steep and bathrooms are too far away
Marion Williams

Is that a good start?

corgimom 08/17/14 - 07:49 am
401 Walton Way James Brown

401 Walton Way
James Brown Festival
Fred Russell

nocnoc 08/17/14 - 08:44 am
A Bonding Question

ARC has issued 100's of $MILLIONS$ in NEW ISSUED Bonds since just 2000.

Each BOND issued must be repaid and that BOND repayment amount becomes a budget item.

A lot & see a few examples for yourself:

Then select "new issue"

Bluntly put Politicians have borrowed that much of the Taxpayers future to date.

Admittedly some bonds are needed and some bond amounts are seriously inflated beyond actual need.

Then add around 4.5% interest, and that works out to $45,000 per
Million x Years x The Millions.

Like I said some bonds are needed.
But there is no denying the ARC Bond Process has been abused a few times over just the last 14 years to slide $$$$ money around.

What ARC needs to do is make a long range plan that takes into account what ARC is and where it is likely headed.

NOT A PIPE DREAM OR VISION of where DOWNTOWN wants to be in 5 or 10 years. But a realistic vision of where ARC as a WHOLE will be in 5 or 10 years.

Cut out the political pay back Consulting gigs, hold contractor to the a FIXED project price, and QUIT changing the plan every 2 years.

Above all NO NEW "GRAND" SAVE AUGUSTA PLANS, until the rest of the county has been addressed and it can be accomplished without tax increases.

nocnoc 08/17/14 - 09:56 am
BTW: IF you want to get an idea where ARC is headed

Look no further than the GA Required Future Land Use Map.

Here is the OLD 2007 Map

The ARC Website is not taxpayer friendly for searches and finding
common requested data and I can't seem to find the State Law required updated Public version.

If someone can dig up the new map URL please post it.

Using it and comparing it to 2007 and previous years will show the migration West and other things, Like Apartment complexes yet to be built.

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