City leaders in Augusta are looking everywhere to find the money they need to pay for salaries and services.
Tuesday, June 6, Augusta commissioners talked about some big changes to make up for their nearly $5 million deficit.
Augusta commissioners know it's a deficit that's only getting deeper and deeper.
"We have got to make tough decisions now," said Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver. "There's no quick fix and we need a plan to come out of this."
And with such a critical crunch, city leaders say at this point, cutting services may be the only option.
"We're going to have to look at cutting staff, cutting services, just anything we can do to get this budget under control," Copenhaver said.
That means jobs and possibly entire departments may be cut. In the past, dipping into the reserve fund was a quick fix to ease the deficit, but now Commissioner Joe Bowles of District 3 says there's only so much dipping that can be done.
"And at the rate this year, we'll end up with close to $14 and a half million left in that reserve fund, so it's almost $3 million a year going into the reserves," he said.
The reason the city is in this situation is fairly complex. Rollbacks from last year's taxes, unbudgeted elections, and eight percent pay raises for all county employees have all contributed. But Commissioner Marion Williams of District 2 says the blame starts with the commission for not doing more to generate revenue for Augusta.
"When you spend money, you ought to have a source of money coming in," he said. "Even if it's not matching that, it ought to be something coming in."
Commissioners say they are considering cutting part of the city's public transit service to reduce the deficit.
Commissioner Bowles is also recommending cutting the eight percent pay raises approved for county employees in half.
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