No budget cuts, says Augusta city administrator

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$5 million down, Augusta commissioners have spent months preparing for the worst.

But today, the city administrator says things may not be as bad as they seemed.

A tax increase is on the table, but there is good news.

Crunch or deficit, the budget has been a major concern for city leaders the past couple of months.

But today the topic was budget fixes.

City administrator Fred Russell presented his spending plan to commissioners today.

The city of Augusta currently has a $5 million budget deficit.

Departments were asked to propose a list of 15 percent cuts, which led to speculation about which services and jobs could be on the chopping block.

But Mr. Russell's proposal today didn't include any cuts.

Instead, he says he was able to find a way to absorb the $5 million through transferring funds and increasing fees like employee health insurance.

And while no cuts may sound good to some, Mr. Russell says this is only a band-aid on a problem they'll see again next year.

"What I'm saying is next year, as we start January 1, we're not going to be able to use some of the fixes we've used this time," he said. "Some of these are one time fixes."

"How we're going to get there, it's going to take six votes...but we have to get there and that's what everybody has to realize," said commissioner Joe Bowles. "We're going to have to cut $6 million our of our budget."

This proposal was approved by the finance committee, and now goes before the full commission.

A 1.09 percent millage rate increase was approved by the commission. That's about $60 for a $100,000 home.

The possibility of a millage increase was discussed back in November, but many commissioners thought it would no longer be necessary because of things like the sale of city property.

The city administrator says those things did not absorb the costs.

Along with increasing some fees, Russell proposed adding some new fees, including a pet licensing fee and a false alarm fee.