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Proposed city budget includes $4.5 million from reserves

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 6:34 PM
Last updated Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 3:31 PM
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The 2013 budget proposed by city Administrator Fred Russell relies on a new local 1 percent excise tax on energy used in manufacturing and a hefty dip into Augusta’s reserves.

Russell recommended Thursday that Augusta Commission members approve the $700 million budget this month to meet a statutory deadline, then amend it if necessary next year when at least three new commissioners take office.

“Some of the issues we face are not going to be resolved in the next 20 days or so,” Russell said. “We’ve got you a budget that will get you into next year, that will allow us to deal with some of those issues at a little more leisurely pace.”

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who is term limited and leaves office this year, said he agreed with Russell’s plan. “With a guaranteed 30 percent turnover next year, we don’t need to be going into (2013) budget changes. If modifications need to be made, they need to make them,” Brigham said.

The issues involve the uncertain impact of a new state law that eliminated a sales tax on energy used in manufacturing and changed collections of ad valorem taxes on vehicles, according to Russell.

The issues do not include potential costs associated with the new Augusta Convention Center. Russell removed a $500,000 general fund line item for the convention center from the 2013 general fund budget, saying it was no longer necessary.

“We can cover it without general fund dollars, as a result of changes in the contract,” Russell said.

Several commissioners took the lead, bolstered by a highly critical Facebook group, in asking for modifications to the management agreements for the convention center negotiated by Russell and Jim Plunkett, the special outside counsel for the convention center deal.

“You did good with that,” Russell said, and Com­missioner Corey Johnson, one of just four commissioners to attend the Thursday work session, thanked him.

The budget Russell said he’ll present for approval Tuesday includes a $750 lump-sum salary adjustment for all employees, rather than a cost-of-living percentage increase. Last year, the commission paid employees a $500 bonus. The lump-sum increases benefit low-paid employees more, he said.

The revised plan Thursday also restored about $165,600 for four new positions in the tax assessor’s office. It added $763,750 in transportation sales-tax dollars designated for Augusta Public Transit, $500,000 from the new excise tax on energy, and $1.25 million in additional property tax revenue that Russell said was made possible by technical advancements in the tax assessor’s office.

“It’s about making people pay the right amount of tax,” Russell said of upgrades to the office’s pictometry system that detect unreported property additions.

The budget includes no property tax increase but predicts a $4.5 million dip into the city’s savings, which Russell said holds about $35 million. Last year’s budget included a similar withdrawal, but the city never actually took the money because it wound up spending less.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he was OK with Russell’s proposal but wanted any money removed from the city’s rainy-day fund restored if a surplus occurred.

“If we don’t put the money back, we’re going to get to the point where we lose our bond rating,” Guilfoyle said.

Guilfoyle said the budget made the city’s cost-savings measures – such as a restructuring of departments in 2011 and a switch to a self-funded health insurance pool – appear to be paying off.

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Riverman1
70475
Points
Riverman1 11/15/12 - 10:00 pm
6
3

Another Tax on South Augusta

"The 2013 budget proposed by City Administrator Fred Russell relies on a new local 1 percent excise tax on energy used in manufacturing ..."

That's another tax on South Augusta.

Brad Owens
3646
Points
Brad Owens 11/16/12 - 01:53 am
3
1

Mission accomplished...

"The issues do not include potential costs associated with the new Augusta Convention Center. Russell removed a $500,000 general fund line item for the convention center from the 2013 general fund budget, saying it was no longer necessary. “We can cover it without general fund dollars, as a result of changes in the contract,” Russell said.
Several commissioners took the lead, bolstered by a highly critical Facebook group, in asking for modifications to the management agreements for the convention center negotiated by Russell and Jim Plunkett, the special outside counsel for the convention center deal.
“You did good with that,” Russell said, and Commissioner Corey Johnson, one of just four commissioners to attend the Thursday work session, thanked him."

corgimom
19200
Points
corgimom 11/16/12 - 07:25 am
2
0

The changes in the contract

The changes in the contract led to saving RC $500,000? Nope. No way. There is something very wrong when contract changes lead to that kind of savings.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/16/12 - 07:33 am
3
2

Brad Owens said:

Mission accomplished.

My husband and I would like to thank you and Lori Davis and all the others that have worked so hard on behalf of all of us in Richmond County.

I wish more of us would get off our rears and do something instead of just talking about online on a forum. It obviously makes a difference.

I think you are inspiring me to actually want to do something..get involved. Maybe that will be my mission in my retirement years :o)

Thank you again to all of you.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/16/12 - 07:38 am
5
2

So what AC bloggers had nothing to do with this?

"Several commissioners took the lead, bolstered by a highly critical Facebook group, in asking for modifications to the management agreements..."

OH an the AC bloggers had NOTHING to do with it, oh yea right.
Bull Pizza

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/16/12 - 08:45 am
4
2

Leading the way

While my history is blurred with just reading all the Tee Center blogs opinions and facts presented over the last 9 months

We had many Community Advocates whose efforts opened this can of worms and their rolls should not be minimized by saying a Face Group. If my memory if correct? Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle was one of the 1st, if not the initial Elected Leader , to start voicing logical business sense opposition to the many parts of the TEE Center Deal(s).

Before these people got involved, the Downtown Crowd (River Front 6+) were moving along unabated with a Floating Parking deck, 50 year deals, Kitchen deals and staffing deals, $50K no bid maintenance deals and more. All written by the very vendor that A-RC were semi-obligated to sole source the business to, by the previous PRO-DOWNTOWN commissioners.

Their combined efforts have cost certain people downtown the equivalent $6,200,000,00+ ($6.2+ Million dollars) over the course of the final deal.

I am sure Wayne G. can expect to see some big name "endorsement problems" come re-election. But Big Name Endorsements don't carry the weigh they once did, just ask Scott Pebbles.

Remember
That is at least $6.2 Million that the Taxpayers will NOT have to pay in the form of a Tax Increase. 1/2+ of which, the South Side property owners will NOT be on the Hook for, despite seeing no return on their dollars.

Is the deal perfect? - NO.
But it is heck of a lot better than it was before they got involved/

We have people to thank like: (random order) Brad, Lori, Wayne G., Riverman1, Rebellious, Dichotomy, Tullie, KSL, SeenItB4, Little Lamb, Insider Information, F4therTime and many others to thank.

Riverman1
70475
Points
Riverman1 11/16/12 - 08:36 am
5
3

And thanks to Open Curtain,

And thanks to Open Curtain, too.

Riverman1
70475
Points
Riverman1 11/16/12 - 08:38 am
4
2

Al Gray

Most importanly, don't forget Al Gray who had the expertise and energy to do what he did. However, I'm pretty sure he's not happy with the final contracts and arrangements.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/16/12 - 08:54 am
3
2

Riverman - Thanks

but so many others lead the way... I just dug up munchies to feed the loins.

There are really a lot people I did not mentioned off the top of my head that contributed weeks of their lives to sidetrack this "once" fast tracked agreement.

In speaking with people in the know... I keep hearing that the modifications will reduce the profits for certain people by at least $6.2M Obama dollars.

Everyone involved should be strutting around with some pride today.

Riverman1
70475
Points
Riverman1 11/16/12 - 09:06 am
6
3

What irks me is Copenhaver

What irks me is Copenhaver, Russell and crew fought anybody who opposed ANYTHING about the TEE. We were all trouble makers, he openly said. What does he say now? Still nothing but derogatory comments about losing events. Is he so hoodwinked or simply incapable? Was it a plan to burn the trailer steps for firewood while they still have the votes before the inevitable? Go to the RICHMOND COUNTY website and look at their population predictions and racial breakdown for the coming years. Are Copenhaver and crew trying to lock up all the future money so the next group has no options?

jwilliams
660
Points
jwilliams 11/16/12 - 09:32 am
2
2

Matt Aitken

Taken from an Augusta Chronicle article titled; “District 1 candidates spar in debate” by Susan McCord, printed 10/15/2012. “The Augusta Convention Center, with 13 conventions booked in 2013, means “12,000 people that weren’t coming last year,” Aitken said. “That’s something we need to celebrate.” So I guess the “city’s white power brokers”(Taken from an article by Susan McCord submitted in the Augusta Chronicle on 11/2/2012) are celebrating right now, because the residents of Marion Homes, East Augusta, Sand hill, Harrisburg, and Cherry tree Crossing have nothing to CELEBRATE. 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. Why is Matt so concerned with the WANTS of a few and so unconcerned with the NEEDS of the many?

seenitB4
72524
Points
seenitB4 11/16/12 - 09:48 am
6
2

100% correct open curtain

As a matter of fact the posters stirred the pot & kept it hot.....& took a lot of negative feedback while doing it......thanks to ALL involved ....& btw....they will continue to be vocal ..
Thanks to Brad & his group..

justus4
93
Points
justus4 11/16/12 - 10:21 am
1
0

Is Russell still making

Unpublished

Is Russell still making decisions about taxpayer money? He's demonstrated a reckless disregard for fiscal responsibility with his past request to increase salaries while the city ran deficits. He should've been long gone!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/16/12 - 10:27 am
0
0

Not that i don't trust A-RC projections

I just usually know better to trust an estimate made for the benefit of downtown or to set up taxes.

ARC Site
Chapter 2
http://www.augustaga.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/332

Or

Table 3
http://appweb.augustaga.gov/Planning_and_Zoning/docs/Transportation%20Pl...

Vs.US Census
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/1304204.html

Vs. Business related sites
http://www.clrsearch.com/Augusta_Demographics/GA/30904/Population-Growth....

Take your pick.
Some say a small growth of 1/10 the GA average (mainly Government related), others say a loss by 2030 (business related).

southern2
4212
Points
southern2 11/16/12 - 11:48 am
2
0

Scrub the new housing being

Scrub the new housing being planned for the Cherry Hill moochers. That would probably create a budget surplus.

catawba7
315
Points
catawba7 11/16/12 - 12:19 pm
0
0

6.2Mil Obama Dollars

I was enjoying reading the blog until I came to this comment, "6.2Mil Obama Dollars". This speaks volumes about what is wrong with Augusta and the U.S. A total turn off.

Sweet son
8219
Points
Sweet son 11/16/12 - 12:23 pm
1
0

Budgeting Obama Style!

Only he spends money he doesn't have. Reserves should be used for unexpected issues and not for running the house. Kinda like savings! Ya' know!

Conservative Man
4578
Points
Conservative Man 11/16/12 - 05:36 pm
1
0

Thanks to the ....

...FB group (who cannot be named here), but mostly to Al Gray's ability to sort through all the contractual malfeasance perpetrated upon this city by Fred, Paul, et al. And aided and abetted by our "esteemed" Mayor and certain members of the Commission....Some still sitting, some not....

Let's hope this "pseudo-victory" will put the rest of the "good ole boys" on notice that this sort of crap will not go un-noticed in the future....

Agree with RM that Al and his group are not entirely satisfied with the outcome but let's face reality here......The fix was SO IN that to accomplish what they did was great....Kudos Al (and the rest)....

dichotomy
26605
Points
dichotomy 11/16/12 - 08:10 pm
1
0

This whole incident is proof

This whole incident is proof positive that the way this county is being run by back room deals, blackmail vote swapping, and a few rich people pulling strings CANNOT stand up to any amount of scrutiny. A very small number of people watching them and pointing out the chicanery was enough to make $millions of dollars difference. I sincerely hope that EVERY issue from now on gets this much attention.

Now if we could just get the REST of this comatose county to wake up and start looking at these SPLOST proposals, Paul & Billy deals, and redevelopment boondoggles BEFORE THEY ARE VOTED ON AND APPROVED we could save ourselves a lot more money. Just remember folks, EVERY TIME they propose something, somebody in our government is putting something in their pocket and taking a bunch out of your's.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/17/12 - 05:11 am
1
0

dichotomy said:

Now if we could just get the REST of this comatose county to wake up and start looking at these SPLOST proposals, Paul & Billy deals, and redevelopment boondoggles BEFORE THEY ARE VOTED ON AND APPROVED we could save ourselves a lot more money.

I agree with you on this dichotomy.

I am thinking we have a problem, a big one. Not just with this, with the elections, with world events, etc.

I talking with local people I have noticed quite a few do NOT read the newspaper, listen to to news, understand how our government works,
understand the difference between constitutional and civil rights, and on and on.

Then when you do read the newspaper and watch TV it can get rather confusing. Take for example GA amendment 1 on this last ballot. Look at the different spins that were put on this amendment depending on if you wanted people to vote for it or not. I had to do some research on that one to find out what was really going on since you had such conflicting information put out.

How many people are voting on issues that really have no idea on what they are voting on, and the impact it will cause in the future?

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