Some Augusta departments turned in budget cut plan early

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Augusta department heads have just two more days to tell the city administrator how they plan to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

The cuts are a result of the city's current five million dollar shortfall, and though the spending plans are not due until Friday, here's a look at some that have already been submitted.

First, the coroner's office. The 15 percent may come from autopsies and x-rays, services the city pays for. Coroner Grover Tuten says oftentimes they are not necessary, so they're looking at using other medical procedures.

Next, human resources. Director Robby Burns has proposed cutting all overtime for employees, along with all travel and employee seminars.

And over in animal control, that department's plan calls for doubling all of their fees as well as eliminating two supervisor positions. They are also proposing a pet licensing ordinance, meaning if you own a pet, you'd be required to pay to have it licensed.

Of course, these are just a few of the many departments. We also talked to officials in the sheriff's and elections offices. They tell us it doesn't look like they will be able to reduce their budget at all, because they are already cut to the bone.

"It's very difficult when you cut, cut, cut," says Sheriff Ronnie Strength. "You can just cut so much and then you get to the point, look, that's all we can do. We're very close to that now."

"We can't go in and cut printing per se because we have to provide absentee ballots. We can't go in and cut postage because absentee ballots come into play," says Lynn Bailey, director of elections. "And it goes on and on, things that are mandated by law with elections."

Sheriff Strength says he's been getting calls from folks concerned that some deputies will be cut as a result of the budget crunch. He tells us with the department already down 34 officers, that is not an option.

So what happens if a department head says they can't find anything to cut?

It's really up to the city administrator, Fred Russell. He can opt to cut more or less than department heads propose, or he can choose to cut nothing at all.

Then, after Russell gets the proposals from department heads, he'll present his plan to the Augusta Commission on July 30. Commissioners will have the final say on what is cut.