Commission can't hide truth anymore

  • Follow Editorials

Your city leaders are preparing to face perhaps the most difficult and delicate budget decisions Augusta has seen in years, if not decades.

At a time in which the private sector is struggling to pick itself up from what some are calling the "Great Recession," the Augusta government is staring at a potential $8.6 million deficit in its 2010 budget.

That's a lot of money to come up with in any economy, much less this one.

Not surprisingly, tax revenues are expected to be down. In addition, the city used $5.1 million in its rainy-day fund this past year to balance the budget.

In essence, the city was living beyond its means even before now.

That's not an option anymore.

Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason suggested this week looking at using monies from the Utilities Department enterprise funds -- but apparently didn't do his homework: The money is reportedly off-limits for general use, and has been allocated to other things anyway.

In short, there's no easy way out anymore.

Commissioner Joe Bowles wondered on Tuesday why the city hasn't taken the responsible step of cutting costs by looking at furloughs or layoffs. He noted, quite rightly, that most other units of government and private businesses have scaled back thusly on personnel costs.

As if to prove Bowles' point, the Georgia Department of Driver Services was closed Thursday for the first of four employee furlough days; the offices will also close Nov. 19, Dec. 18 and Jan. 28.

Augusta commissioners simply must marshal the courage to take similarly painful steps in order to avoid more property tax increases. City administrator Fred Russell is already calling for a 1.317 millage increase to shore up the expected $5.9 million hole in the law enforcement budget. That would add $46 in taxes on a $100,000 house.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver lamented the double whammy that occurs when the state pushes costs down to the municipal and county level -- but doesn't provide cities and counties with the flexibility needed to cover those costs, especially in local option sales taxes. He said such matters will be the No. 1 priority for the Georgia Municipal Association this coming year.

Copenhaver suggested, for instance, that local sales taxes be collected locally instead of going to Atlanta. When such a change was instituted in Alabama, he said, local tax receipts soared. Russell added his suspicions about state sales tax procedures when he noticed that several Georgia localities' sales tax revenues, as reported by the state, decreased by the same amount.

But the truth is, we can't expect an easy fix from Atlanta.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said taking utility money for the general fund, even if it could be done, would be simply hiding a tax increase -- just, we might add, like raiding the savings account has been.

The truth is, the city has been living beyond its means, and that's not an option anymore.

It's time to stop hiding the truth and make the tough choices, commissioners.

Comments (50) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 10/23/09 - 01:34 am
0
0
if only the city could

if only the city could legally print money, then they wouldn't be in a bind... at least until the rest of the world stops buying your debt. Augusta's budget problems are small potatoes compared to the swollen national debt / deficit.

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 10/23/09 - 02:59 am
0
0
Cut some of these useless

Cut some of these useless groups who suck up money and never deliver on anything, like the DDA at $150,000.00 a year. DEFUND the DDA!

justus4
109
Points
justus4 10/23/09 - 03:31 am
0
0
Hide the truth...Ha! That's a
Unpublished

Hide the truth...Ha! That's a national past time. Ya gotta hide that kinda stuff, but laying off people is not the answer. In fact, the article mentions that Mason didn't do his "homework" well, why didn't Bowles produce the savings associated with cutting the workforce i.e., cutting 50 worker positions or getting rid of 5 department heads, which would've given some idea of the savings. Just saying, "furloughs of layoffs" raises red flags, because who will determine to whom the pink slips go is problematic. Why? Well, it's going to disproportionately affect U know who...yep, the truth will come out about the city's finances, but it will also reveal their true sense of priorities.

Riverman1
90130
Points
Riverman1 10/23/09 - 03:52 am
0
0
There was a Commission

There was a Commission meeting a few years ago and the repo man showed up to repossess cars. Two Commissioners walked home that day. These are the people managing the finances of the city? We do study after study of grandiose ideas that will never work while we are in debt. Let's all agree to get out of debt before we do any more studies or plan any projects that cost tens of millions such as the TEE Center. Handshake on that, everyone.

Riverman1
90130
Points
Riverman1 10/23/09 - 03:54 am
0
0
The DDA should work without a

The DDA should work without a budget. Appointing dedicated people to the DDA will give you results that surpass paid studies.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/23/09 - 04:34 am
0
0
Furlough days, defunding of

Furlough days, defunding of all groups, no more studies, limiting their travel/expense account along with all city employees, and a four day work week on all positions possible. That should be a good start before a tax increase is even thought about

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 10/23/09 - 06:40 am
0
0
Justus, the reason cuts

Justus, the reason cuts haven't been made are some people feel more like Union labor reps rather than taxpayer reps

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 10/23/09 - 07:16 am
0
0
hey joe...with some

hey joe...with some departments already working with skeleton crews..who would you designate to be laid off??? why not you and your other 9 baffoons STOP SPENDING MONEY ON WASTEFUL, USELESS AND COST INEFFECTIVE "PIE IN THE SKY" projects when roads are caving in..oh by the way as you said a fews years back "i don't have bumps/holes in my road" why can't the TEE center be put off??? where is the demographic, market data and/or feasibility study to show tht the TEE center will benefit the city as opposed to a single individual??? it's truly amazing how you will vote/support projects(ellis street canal, Tee Center) that lacks the necessary market/demographic data that would show how these projects will become profitable...but if you don't have it where can i find it???

Little Lamb
47853
Points
Little Lamb 10/23/09 - 07:47 am
0
0
I would temporarily shut down

I would temporarily shut down the community centers and lay off the community center staff. I would demand a 10% permanent reduction in the staff of the tax assessor's office and the tax commissioner's office. I would reduce commissioners salaries by 15% in 2010 and by an additional 5% in 2011 if they did not reduce property tax millage rates during 2010. I would cut one municipal court judge and one state court judge from the budget and also fire their support staff. I would raise bus fares by an additional $2 per ride and charge an additional dollar for transfers. I would end all city involvement in "meals on wheels" and any other home visitation programs. I would abolish the Augusta "Brownfields" commission and completely end their funding. I would reduce the number of days the aquatic center is open by one per week. I would announce that there would be no more right of way cleaning except the week before the Masters Tournament (oh wait, they've already done that). That's for starters. Can anybody else think of anything more?

AWyld1
3
Points
AWyld1 10/23/09 - 08:03 am
0
0
Maybe you can explain why my

Maybe you can explain why my property taxes went from 360 a year to almost 1000 a year? Goodbye ARC. When the last tax payer leaves please turn out the lights.

skimpy159
0
Points
skimpy159 10/23/09 - 08:11 am
0
0
Commissioners, CUT THE FAT!

Commissioners, CUT THE FAT! Start with paying your own cell phone and gas bills. Then moVe on to the waste you folks generate---stupid studies, suits against the city, like Smith's, etc, etc. I could go on but you idiots can't balance your own checkbook much less the one of a city.

skimpy159
0
Points
skimpy159 10/23/09 - 08:14 am
0
0
By the way comms, remembere

By the way comms, remembere there will be no social sec COLA this year. The old , disabled and sick who are up to their nose in water just paying bills now won't be able to afford your tax increase.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 10/23/09 - 09:00 am
0
0
Awylds, may taxes went from

Awylds, may taxes went from 2800.00 in 1999 to 6300.00 in 2009, I think I am paying more than my fair share. School taxes were almost 50% of that and I don't have any children. Start agressively forclosing on the homes where people do not pay their taxes. That will get their attention. But I forgot, no one wants to be the bad guy. Turn the properties over to an attorney and let them be the bad guys and pay them a percentage.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 10/23/09 - 09:20 am
0
0
Lifelong, Can you stick with

Lifelong, Can you stick with the facts????? Show me where I ever favored the Ellis Street idea. You sound like all the Limbaugh haters making up stories about me.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/23/09 - 09:39 am
0
0
Man I hope you get voted out

Man I hope you get voted out joebowles. If I was in your district I would vote for the OTHER GUY. You must like, listen and is a follower of drugbaugh.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 10/23/09 - 09:40 am
0
0
Gee, are they really that

Gee, are they really that stupid?

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 10/23/09 - 09:47 am
0
0
Jackfruit, the only reason

Jackfruit, the only reason you don't like Joe is because he is white. You and the other SCLC members are no better than the KKK.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/23/09 - 09:50 am
0
0
LOL now that's funny because

LOL now that's funny because I voted for Don, and it's not that, don't start with the I don't like white people remarks LOL. Do you think it could be something else other than what you think as to why I want vote for him? Shakes my head and says geez.

convertedsoutherner
2
Points
convertedsoutherner 10/23/09 - 09:58 am
0
0
fruity... Give us some facts

fruity... Give us some facts of why joe should be voted out. Your ramblings/rhetoric continues to have NO substance.

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 10/23/09 - 10:00 am
0
0
joe, you have been very good

joe, you have been very good about your spending habits. I disagree with you about TEE but that is OK. Why don't you guys cut funding to the DDA and CVB to start with? I know I am a broken record with the DDA but they are a bunch of idiots when you look at things like the Trolley idea. Can you defend spending $37,000 on that? I can't. If I were you, I would look at all groups that produce NOTHING for all the cash we give them. Ask Helen Blocker-Adams to give you her and Janie Peel's reports on which groups duplicate services and produce nothing. Come on Joe, kick em' in the pants!

jeffreyd
0
Points
jeffreyd 10/23/09 - 10:02 am
0
0
A first step in educating the

A first step in educating the electorate would be to publish all salary positions over 50,000 per year. We need an accounting of those in government that are being paid at or over 1000 dollars per week. Being self-employed I know how much work it takes for me to make a thousand a week, I would like to know just who and what their 'job discription' is for anyone who is on the public dole for a thousand a week......

apex24
0
Points
apex24 10/23/09 - 10:16 am
0
0
Fruitcake833, you DON'T like

Fruitcake833, you DON'T like any white people. You lay back and talk about Limbaugh because as usual you cannot and will not ever be held accountable for any ignorant things you Leftist support. You're another one of those idiots that will attempt to put Charles Walker back in office when he gets out of the prison and swear he did nothing wrong after he was stealing scholarship money from black kids. In your mind no black politician can ever be wrong!!!!!!

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 10/23/09 - 10:16 am
0
0
First of all, Joe Bowles is

First of all, Joe Bowles is doing an excellent job of representing not only his district, but the entire city. We need more fiscal conservatives on the Commission to spend the money wisely. Secondly, if furloughs are good for the Schools and State then the County needs to do join in. Perhahps one day each month the government needs to shut down completely to save money on pay but also expenses. Secondly, every commissioner should forgo their expense account. NO gas card, NO cell phone until the budget is balanced. Once balanced they should each get a uniform allowance (say $60/month to cover gas). NO outside travel for anyone unless the trip will result in funding coming to County (i.e. new jobs, etc.). No TEE Center or other projects -- everything needs to be on hold for a while until the economy improves.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/23/09 - 10:28 am
0
0
Grasshopper, please don't

Grasshopper, please don't compare anyone or any group to the KKK until they have committed murders, lynching, and bombed churches like the KKK.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/23/09 - 10:32 am
0
0
Although I disagree with both

Although I disagree with both sometimes I think Bowles and Hatney represent their districts better than any. Neither gets into the showboating and name calling. Neither are in it for themselves and neither go fool much with travel, cell phone, gas cards, etc.

justthefacts
23734
Points
justthefacts 10/23/09 - 10:40 am
0
0
Joe, pay no attention to

Joe, pay no attention to jackfruit(no one else does). He is a bitter ole hater of white folks here only for comic relief.

OBX
0
Points
OBX 10/23/09 - 10:44 am
0
0
Justthefacts, Very well put!

Justthefacts, Very well put!

jojo55
0
Points
jojo55 10/23/09 - 10:46 am
0
0
I say lets start with the

I say lets start with the City Administrator. He has been the worse and needs to be the first to go. We have had some very good Administrators but for some reason, they were run off for doing the job the way it was to be done. The city commissioners just didn't want to hear the truth so they got rid of the messenger. We need a City Administrator that knows how to run the city, make cuts where needed, stop duplication of services and knows how to think outside the box. Russell can't even find the box.

harrisburgwillrise
0
Points
harrisburgwillrise 10/23/09 - 11:04 am
0
0
Joe Bowles favors the chronic

Joe Bowles favors the chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance. when this ordinance is up and operating, decent people will return to our Richmond County neighborhoods, by getting rid of the crime element and holding landlords responsible for those who break the law. Like it or not, if enforced, it will work beautifully. Then, and only then, will money come back into Augusta. Forget raising property taxes. It will only drive more decent people out, leaving our neighborhoods to the demise of the landlord and their drup dealers and prostitutes they rent to.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/23/09 - 11:16 am
0
0
I understand the property

I understand the property ordinance I think. But don't you think it will just lead to the people moving a little more often. I mean they will just go from neighborhood to neighborhood being pushed out. These people probably aren't leaving Augusta. Since they are addicts most aren't going to stop using drugs and the dealers will always be near the addicts. So I just see this creating people being in Harrisburg this year, somewhere else next year, etc. I wish you the best. But the answer is to get them off the streets not to different streets each year or month.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Crowd turns out for Sanders memorial

ATLANTA -- A large crowd filled a downtown Atlanta church Saturday for the memorial service for Carl Sanders, an Augusta native who had served as governor in the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Search Augusta jobs