Augusta Recreation and Parks takes massive hit in proposed budget

By: Jonathan Martin
By: Jonathan Martin

August 21, 2006

After raising taxes to fill this year's budget holes, commissioners are now looking at cutting services to solve next year's expected $6 million budget shortfall.

A plan before city leaders would cut services in nearly every department, but one area would be hit the hardest.

Cutting millions out of a budget can be difficult. Of course, you can't do away with mandated things like courts and law enforcement...but one area not mandated by law is recreation. That's why it's a department that could get cut all the way to the bone.

After working at Dyess Park for 8 years, Fannie Collier is now learning that the downtown Rec. Center may be closing.

"I think it will be a tragedy," she says.

It means her job may be swept away too, as city leaders tighten the belt on next year's budget.

"I need my job and I got bills to pay."

She's not alone. The proposal from city administrator Fred Russell includes closing other recreation facilities like Dyess and Doughty Park community centers and Hephzibah/Carroll Park.

"The cuts are going to hurt people and they're going to make people unhappy," Russell said.

Plans also include closing the pool at May Park and ending all special events on the Riverwalk.

"Recreation is something that improves the quality of life. It's something we like to have...but it's not a necessity," Russell said.

And while such critical cuts would leave some hanging, Commissioner Keith Brown says it's important to keep one thing in mind: "Nothing is set in stone yet. We still have an opportunity to make any changes we'd like to make."

And perhaps it's that certainty that things are uncertain keeping Fannie Collier working instead of worrying.

"Just keep the faith, it will work out," she says.

Also on the list of recreation cuts are brochures, all overtime, and security systems for the facilities.

In all, the plan would cut 30 jobs from the Recreation and Parks Department, and 80 city jobs total.

Nothing is final, but city leaders will have to make some decisions soon as the budget come up for final approval.

Commissioners raised the millage rate to balance the 2006 budget. In past years they've dipped into the city's reserve fund.

Those are both strategies they are not looking at for next year's budget.

Fred Russell's plan includes cutting $6.5 million from the budget, including almost $1.5 million from the sheriff's department and more than $1 million from public transit.

If you have ideas on where the city should cut the budget, we'd love to hear from you on our news blog. Click here to chime in.


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