Originally created 11/27/02

Budget decision delayed by talks

Augusta commissioners were within one vote of approving a balanced budget Tuesday that would have frozen some unfilled jobs and cut a proposed property tax increase.

But a successful vote was derailed by one time-crunched commissioner and a couple of long-winded ones, which means budget discussions will continue into next month.

Earlier this year, commissioners set a November deadline for approving the budget. Tuesday's vote failed 5-3-1.

After more than an hour of budget talks, Commissioner Ulmer Bridges announced to the chamber that he had a business presentation and asked for a vote while he was still in attendance.

But Commissioner Marion Williams objected and said he had his hand up to speak before his fellow commissioner called for a vote. Mr. Williams then talked for nearly 10 minutes about a lack of accountability with city vehicles and about how he believed the same "piece of cake" should be cut from all city departments, as opposed to limiting cuts to certain areas of government.

Then, Commissioner Tommy Boyles asked for "clarification" on one of the budget line items. He was followed by Commissioner Willie Mays, who continued to speak for several minutes, until Mr. Bridges left.

About a minute later, Mr. Mays said he was finished, and commissioners took the vote.

"I apologize for not being able to vote for it, but I have a job obligation I have to keep," Mr. Bridges said when reached Tuesday night. He said he didn't know how long the vote would be delayed.

Commissioners Andy Cheek, Bill Kuhlke, Steve Shepard, Bobby Hankerson and Mr. Boyles voted in favor of the budget package. Mr. Mays, Mr. Williams and Commissioner Lee Beard voted against it. Commissioner Richard Colclough abstained.

Six votes are needed for any motion to pass.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.


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