Departments scramble to meet two-week budget cut deadline

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The cuts are coming. Augusta department heads have two weeks to tell the city administrator how they plan to cut 15 percent of their budget.

With this $5 million deficit, lots of city workers are on edge right now, not knowing if their job is going to be on the list of budget cuts. But as some department heads tell News 12 these cuts could affect many more of you.

City administrator Fred Russell says the easy cuts have already come.

"We've cut pens and papers, and travel."

Now he says the critical ones are right around the corner.

Each department head is racing against a two-week deadline to chop their budget by 15 percent.

"When I asked the department heads to give me fifteen percent, I recognized there was going to be a significant impact on the service level," Russell says.

Services you depend on--like parks, the airport, trash collection, and even those who protect you. The fire chief tells us his proposed cuts could mean closing fire stations and axing fire safety programs, in addition to reducing fuel costs.

And one thing that may not be getting cut is grass...that's one of the ways the landscaping department plans to chop their budget.

"It may get a little ragged on occasion, which some people are going to find offensive," Russell says.

Augusta Animal Control has to clip their costs too. They don't plan to get rid of animals or employees, so it means you will likely pay 25 percent more.

"Fees that we charge for returning an impounded animal will probably go up," says director Randy Teasley.

And for public transit, the cuts mean the brakes could be put on the buses for a while. Public transit director Heyward Johnson doesn't feel good about it.

"You have to sort of think how those people will make it around town, who are not able to afford a car," he says.

Russell knows this will all pile up to be an inconvenience for many folks, but at this point, he says it's a must in order to climb out of a $5 million hole.

"It's going to be our job to put together a package that has the least impact on the most people."

The list of cuts is expected to be finalized next month.

This process has been difficult for several departments like solid waste and IT, because they work with contractors. So the trick is, how do you cut your budget when there's nothing really to cut?