20 layoffs accompany pay raises

Cost-cutting measures by the Augusta Commission during the past week have led to 20 layoffs and the elimination of nine vacant positions.

A part of the savings was used to give pay raises to 76 employees to compensate for added responsibilities, increased workloads and more required skills.

The city workers being let go will be notified today, part of a plan to save up to $700,000 and get through 2009 without a tax rate increase, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

He said he hopes to keep four or five of them employed by moving them to other open positions, but they might earn less pay. Overall, the city has about 2,700 employees.

The cuts will come from the Richmond County Correctional Institution, the Human Relations Commission -- eliminated in its entirety in next year's budget -- and two other departments that Mr. Russell would not disclose.

"Let me emphasize," he told commissioners during a special called meeting Monday to approve a layoff policy, "they're leaving through no fault of their own, but because of budget issues."

Far more city employees are making out better.

By approving "revised job descriptions" in last week's meeting, the commission gave $228,939 in raises to 64 utilities department workers, 11 recreation workers and a tax assessor's office appraiser.

With nine empty positions simultaneously eliminated, the move saves taxpayers $123,235.

Most of the raises were in the 5 percent to 10 percent range, documents from Human Resources show. Some were higher, but still left utilities workers earning in the $20,000-$30,000 range. A cashier, for example, got a 27 percent raise, from $23,369 to $29,629 a year.

The biggest increase went to a utilities department safety officer, now titled safety training & program manager, who got a 33 percent raise to $54,500 per year.

The justification for that raise reads: "The safety program has expanded and the responsibilities have expanded and should be compensated for the additional expansion of duties and requirements."

Interim Utilities Director Drew Goins said the manager, Bernard Woods, is now doing the jobs of two people and the raise is "well-deserved."

Ten percent raises in the Recreation Department include a facilities/aquatics manager increased to $63,120 for having "seven new facilities added to responsibilities," a facilities/senior service manager increased to $60,603 for managing "all senior nutrition/wellness programs added in 2004" and an operations manager raised to $59,516 for having "twelve new parks added to responsibilities."

Mr. Russell had announced that up to 20 positions could be cut when commissioners passed a tight 2009 budget designed to stave off a tax increase.

He has said he's also hoping to come in below budget this year or next to keep taxpayers from paying hundreds of dollars more when the state Legislature eliminates the homeowner grants program.

Under the policy approved Monday, eliminated workers will be notified 60 days before the effective date, receive one month's pay, keep health insurance coverage for 90 days and be paid for 50 percent of unused sick leave, not to exceed 990 hours.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

JOB CUTS

Layoffs

Eliminated positions: 20

Workers left jobless: 15 or 16

Savings: $600,000 to $700,000

JOB "RECLASSIFICATIONS"

Vacant jobs eliminated: Nine (two part-time positions)

Savings: $352,174

Raises: 76

Cost: $228,939

Net savings: $123,235

Source: City Administrator Fred Russell; documents provided by Human Resources