I must respond to the articles and criticism concerning the audit report by the Federal Aviation Administration for Bush Field and the transfer of funds by the former city of Augusta.
At the time the city was experiencing financial difficulties, $2 million was transferred from the Bush Field account to the city's operating account. This was originally intended as a loan. This decision was not made in a vacuum, but with the advice and apparent support of the city's professional staff. At no time did anyone object, and this seemed to be a good way to solve the problem.
In reporting this to the public, both the city's staff and our auditors of Cherry, Bekaert and Holland, stated in open meetings that it was their recommendation that these funds not be considered a loan, but that these funds were actually owed to the city for unreimbursed billings over a number of years. Therefore, the loan was to be a repayment.
The FAA disagreed with these professional recommendations and asked for the audit to prove their claim. Neither the former city nor the current government is responsible for the time that it has taken to conduct this audit. It is being handled by the FAA. If it is the FAA's decision to reject the claims that were put forth by the former city, then that is the very reason to have the audit.
While a great deal has been made out of the former city's financial woes, we tend to forget that just a few years ago, the former Richmond County Commission found itself in a similar situation. Its solution was to raise property taxes by 25 percent.
The former city, when I was mayor, never raised taxes and resolved the financial situation without such drastic measures. ... It is also important to remember the many accomplishments, such as Riverwalk, that were built and paid for and that the entire community will enjoy for many years to come.
In fact, another one of those very positive things, which did not get any coverage was the last audit prepared for by the former city of Augusta by Cherry, Bekaert and Holland, with a staff that still includes people who work for the consolidated government.
This audit shows that not only did the former city resolve the crisis, we left an unreserved fund balance of nearly $4.3 million (1995 audit report, page 7). Even accounting for Bush Field, that is still a considerable reserve....
Charles A. DeVaney, Augusta
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