June 23, 2006
Augusta's summer activities and special events could be on the chopping block.
The city's cutting the budget, and while 15 percent may not seem like a big number, for Augusta's Recreation and Parks Department, it is.
The budget cuts may impact your family's summer fun.
Nothing is written in permanent ink just yet, but soon Augustans will see a stripped down version of the department's spending plans for the summer.
"Some things we probably will just not be able to do anymore," says Rec. and Parks director Tom Beck. Beck is busy crunching numbers, preparing for a 15 percent budget cut plan due in to the city next week.
"There's no services that we offer that aren't important, or we wouldn't be doing them," he says. "But we have to look at those that are serving the least amount of people, making the least amount of impact with the citizens."
As kids pour into gymnasiums and summer camps, some worry these services could be on the cutting board.
Or even special events like Friday night movies on the Augusta Common.
"It will hurt definitely, and I'm sure they can look somewhere else in the bigger areas," says Augusta retiree Singh Garcha.
"Kids need a place to hang out, you know? Play around, have fun," says resident Matthew Agee.
"Basketball, cheerleading, football. And the recs is a good opportunity for all the kids," says mother Eva Martin.
And these are opportunities beck hopes to keep alive.
His game plan is to identify which services are most expensive and impact the least amount of people--a plan he's confident won't leave the kids hanging.
Some creative ways of keeping programs alive include resources like volunteer groups and corporate sponsorships.
Augusta's summer day camps service some 3000 kids county-wide, and Beck says he realizes their importance.
Next week we'll know for sure where these cuts are going to come.
Augusta city administrator Fred Russell says there have already been major cuts in employee travel and office supplies, and job cuts for many departments are likely on the way.
The city deficit is at about $5 million. About $2 million of that is uncollected taxes.
The reason the city is in this situation is fairly complex. Rollback from last year's taxes, unbudgeted elections and eight percent pay raises for all county employees have all contributed to the deficit.