Local officials decry grant freeze

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Gov. Sonny Perdue's statement that he'd like to see the homeowner tax grant program scrapped has local officials in a panic and some state lawmakers calling for a special legislative session.

Richmond County legislative delegation Chairman Quincy Murphy said what Mr. Perdue is proposing is a tax increase, and it will be permanent unless people speak out against it.

"If the citizens of our state do not rise up and let their voices be heard that they do not want a tax increase, and if they don't do it before November, it's possible the administration will go forward with eliminating those tax grants," he said.

Mr. Murphy wants lawmakers to return to Atlanta for a special session to deal with what he said could be "one of the most severe economic downturns in quite some time."

To alleviate the state's impending $1.6 billion revenue shortfall, Mr. Perdue froze $428 million in grants just as local governments' tax bills were about to go out. And he said Tuesday he'd like to see the grants eliminated because they have been "ineffective" in driving Georgia's property taxes down.

Loss of the grants means Augusta and the Richmond County school system would come up short $6.9 million this year, and Augusta taxpayers can look for drastic cuts in services, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

School officials have said they have not determined how to deal with the loss.

Mr. Russell said he expects the city to make $3.1 million in cuts or use more of the emergency fund to keep from raising property taxes.

"We're going to absorb the hit, or hit the fund balance," he said.

Sending another tax bill to collect $3.1 million the city expected to receive is an option, Mr. Russell said.

"That's probably one that to be fiscally responsible I will recommend. But you're placing the burden of almost $300 on our taxpayers that we had no control over," he said, referring to the extra amount in taxes most property owners would pay. "As you know, I was rebuffed greatly when I wanted to raise taxes $17.50. So to come back and say, 'I need another $300,' I just don't see that happening."

As for Mr. Perdue's statement that the tax grants have been used to help fatten local governments' coffers, Mr. Russell said Augusta's coffers aren't particularly fat, and the city depends on the money being there.

"I have no argument with the concept of the grants being good or bad," he said. "My argument is that you told us you were going to give us $3.1 million that we did not raise our local taxes to cover because that was a grant coming from the state," he said.

"Halfway through our budget year, you say that money's not there anymore. We're having enough financial issues, and most other governments are, just like the state, with increased costs, increased everything. But you've cut off the revenue stream that you basically promised us."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 05:35 am
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I don't know what part of

I don't know what part of "grants:" fred don't understand. Local govn'ts assumed that money would come every year and spent it as such. Now they grown used to it and demand they get it. I would imagine if the county got serious about collecting delinquent property taxes, that alone would go a long way in solving the shortfall problem. If that doesn't work, cut perks, trim fat, institute a hiring freeze and start eliminating some of the counties giveaway programs.

southern2
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southern2 08/21/08 - 05:51 am
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Sorry Fred...due to my own

Sorry Fred...due to my own budget shortfall and less than predicted earnings, I think I'll follow Sonny's lead and freeze what's left. Wonder what else is on the Sonny-Do list?

i.b.e.w..electric
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i.b.e.w..electric 08/21/08 - 05:53 am
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our govener is a blundering

our govener is a blundering fool that needs to be impeached.

DeborahElliott2
4
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DeborahElliott2 08/21/08 - 06:07 am
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Ok, enough taxes all ready!

Ok, enough taxes all ready! Do some cuts!

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 06:22 am
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Why electric, because he is

Why electric, because he is unlike you idiot dems and does not want to spend what the state doesn't have?

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 06:49 am
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Any program, like the transit

Any program, like the transit authority, which is not self sustaining should be axed. If it can't pull it's weight, don't subsidize it with taxpayer funds.
Recreation dept is another good place to look for cuts!

spanky12
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spanky12 08/21/08 - 06:57 am
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Is there anyone out there

Is there anyone out there whose property taxes have gone down over the last 3 years? Government spending has been out of control. They don't have enough to keep the lights on but can talk incessantly about canals,new ballpark and now a 20000 seat arena. If you build all of them,they will not come to Augusta to watch an" A "league ballclub,second rate acts and a street full of pollutted water.Who's going to maintain these facilities with a BUDGET SHORTFALL?

Little Lamb
48877
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Little Lamb 08/21/08 - 07:02 am
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Deborah Elliot is correct.

Deborah Elliot is correct. Fred (What, me worry?) Russell is wrong. Fred says he was expecting $3 million that he didn't "raise local taxes to cover." He could cut $3 million from city expenditures and the people would never tell the difference in the quality of service. It would be bad as ever.

TrulyWorried
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TrulyWorried 08/21/08 - 07:13 am
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Let's pull in all those free

Let's pull in all those free cell phones, cut out the gas allowances - the citizens have to pay for their gas to get to work. Park those government vehicles except for government business. And if employees don't have 8 hours worth of work (1 hr for lunch) find them a position where they do earn their keep. Stop that stupid free ride on buses, a normal hotel guest is not looking for a free bus ride - not much to see, unfortunately.
And, whenever bad news have to be printed in the paper, please, AC - don't post those pictures of the government officials showing them with a smirky smile on their faces. Somehow raises my bloodpressure!!! My fixed income only goes so far!

godogs
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godogs 08/21/08 - 07:23 am
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I am not defending Fred, but

I am not defending Fred, but in State Government (agencies) you do depend on what the state has promised for your budget, assuming Atlanta has done their part and should know what is in the state budget to promise out before it is promised. You are required to produce a projected budget based on the previous year and the state also sends you an allotement of what it promises to give with the local county matching a part of those funds. State agencies do depend on those promises because we do provide a service to the community for those who can't afford other avenues, especially in times of disaster, trust me you would want us here! We state agencies have cut all we can cut and are now having to look at laying staff off which means we may have to close facilities, cut days open down or cut programs that are vital programs to the local community. All state agencies aren't just free programs and there until the end of time will be less fortunate people (good people who may have lost their job because of the economy need our services or children who didn't ask to be born). Our wages are not fat by any means compared to outside private sector.

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 07:27 am
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What ever it takes life. A

What ever it takes life. A balanced budget would help and cutingg out tax and spend mentality would go a long way in solving these financial problems. By the way, I know you are kidding when you say state and local agencies have cut all they can. If you are serious, come see me, I have land I want to sell you!

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 07:29 am
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Just for you Fred, the next

Just for you Fred, the next picture you have taken, try to keep that sheeit eating smirk off your face.

mojo
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mojo 08/21/08 - 07:36 am
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Perhaps our "Sonny-Do" list

Perhaps our "Sonny-Do" list should involve deep frying a certain purdue poultry stinking up our state.

pointstoponder
608
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pointstoponder 08/21/08 - 08:07 am
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Another day of the clueless

Another day of the clueless masquerading as well informed. You can't handle the truth.

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 08:19 am
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mojo, you like the state

mojo, you like the state spending money it doesn't have? Are you one of those people nose deep in credit card debt and don't see anything wrong with it?

double_standard
166
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double_standard 08/21/08 - 08:27 am
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Sonny is a joke but I guess

Sonny is a joke but I guess this is what we get when you put Boss Hogg in office.

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 08:37 am
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How so ds?

How so ds?

junebug
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junebug 08/21/08 - 08:41 am
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Augustans paying their own

Augustans paying their own way. Brilliant!

142
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Dan White 08/21/08 - 09:34 am
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You know, my wife and I have

You know, my wife and I have had to slash expenses, We didn't take a vacation this summer for the first time since 1999. The bureaucrats need to quit whining and cut their budgets too, It's hard times for all of us. I can't raise my income and they should not raise our taxes, Just cut, cut, cut, Duhhh, how hard is that!

double_standard
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double_standard 08/21/08 - 09:36 am
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The state has plenty of

The state has plenty of money. They just cut the gas tax on july 1st. Gas was continously on the rise until that point. The lootery has made record profits but education has been drastically cut. For those of you that don't know GA is footing the bill for the widening of I-20 on the SC side so maybe that cause the shortfall.

Little Lamb
48877
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Little Lamb 08/21/08 - 09:48 am
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I had forgotten about that

I had forgotten about that DS. I heard over a year ago that SC was refusing to pay a dime on the I-20 bridge widening, so the good ole DOT said, "No problem, the Georgia taxpayers will be glad to pay for the whole thing." They likely got us the same deal on Bobby Jones into SC as well.

142
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Dan White 08/21/08 - 10:52 am
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DS - there are plenty of

DS - there are plenty of education cuts that can take place. For one, start cutting the graduation coaches in all of the schools, The guidance counsels should be doing this job. There is a lot of waste, Look at how much they wasted on the Social Studies CRCT tests that were thrown out. Millions can be saved, And do like some school districts are doing to save fuel, If a child is within two miles of the school, they have to walk or the parents take them. Like I did! That would get some of the weignt of these obese kids and reduce childhood obesity.

griesella
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griesella 08/21/08 - 11:48 am
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meme..well said.

meme..well said.

NicoleKelly
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NicoleKelly 08/21/08 - 11:59 am
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The last thing that needs to

The last thing that needs to be done is cut anymore from the education. This is what you get when you vote for a MORON into office.

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 12:47 pm
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Oh, nicole, you are one of

Oh, nicole, you are one of those deficit spending lib dems also, huh?

double_standard
166
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double_standard 08/21/08 - 12:59 pm
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Truthfully greenjacket all

Truthfully greenjacket all standardized test are joke because the GA High School Grad Test don't mean jack when you walk through the college doors. School buses are a county issue not the state because other counties similar in size aren't complaining. ie. Savannah-Chatham, Macon-Bibb, or Columbus-Muscogee. But for those of you who have that problem call Sonny to fly down in his helicopter and pick your child up for school he hasn't cut funding for that yet.

iwannaknowthetruth
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 02:10 pm
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I want my grant money and I

I want my grant money and I want it now!!!!!!!!! If I don't get it, I'm calling JG Wentworth!!!!

disssman
6
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disssman 08/21/08 - 02:36 pm
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I honestly don't know what

I honestly don't know what could be cut or slimmed down, because we don't have a budget we can read. If they would publish a detailed budget on their gov web, maybe we could see why those non-profits downtown are gobbling cash so fast. Or maybe we could find out what the purpose is for a suite ($25,000 per year) at the radison . These people (our elected representatives) are not stupid though, if they divulge what they are allocating, then they would have to explain the figures to you. I think it is a shame that a good investagitive reporter in the local news dosn't pick-up on what is spent and why. The first indication of problems is having an administrator who prepares budgets using Grants as income! That is almost like me budgeting my household based on projected funding from the Lottery!

142
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Dan White 08/21/08 - 03:13 pm
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Yes, I agree, standarized

Yes, I agree, standarized tests are a joke. The kids fail them and are promoted anyway. The budget for each local school system depends in part upon state funding. School busses are then also a part of this funding shortfall that are making districts scramble for money. Cutting back on school bus use instead of raising taxes is the best way to go.

No_Longer_Amazed
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No_Longer_Amazed 08/21/08 - 04:03 pm
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NicoleKelly: IMO one of the

NicoleKelly: IMO one of the first cuts should be in the Procurement Department °¿°

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