Augusta budget may involve tax increase

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October 12, 2006

After weeks of work sessions and hearing from many of you, Augusta city leaders are getting close to making some big decisions about next year's budget.

News 12's Jonathan Martin spoke with the city administrator about what we can expect, and a tax hike may be in the works.

Tuesday is Fred Russell's deadline to present a final budget to the commission.

"Part of the commissioners are not going to be satisfied that I've cut enough, the other part are going to be mad because I've cut too much," Russell predicted.

At first, Russell proposed cutting law enforcement, but says they'll probably now be safe. But other departments and jobs, including those in recreation and transit, are still in the danger zone.

Aside from the cuts, Russell says his proposal will likely include another tax increase.

"I don't think they should be raising taxes," Augusta resident Charles Barreras told News 12. "As a matter of fact, I'm going in to protest mine."

"If it means they have to raise taxes a little more, out of the three, do that instead of cutting anything," said Augustan Madel Royal. "Don't cut transit, and don't cut law enforcement."

While Russell has a tough task, perhaps it's the commissioners who will have a tougher time agreeing on the big fix. The talk of taxes has many of them torn.

"I'm not in favor of raising taxes, because I think we have too much fat in this government," Commissioner Don Grantham told News 12.

"I don't have any problem with a tax increase as long as we do something that makes sense and get it over with," said Commissioner J.R. Hatney.

There is some good news here. Russell says the city's revenue is actually a lot better than he projected when he started working on the budget, so he may not have to make as many cuts.

Some of you at home may be asking yourselves, "Didn't city leaders say they wouldn't even consider raising taxes to fix the budget?" Well, you're right...but apparently that may change.

Russell wouldn't tell us how much of a tax increase he was considering, but the last few increases have been rather small, between one and two percent.

The city administrator's budget is not final; the commission still has the final say.

They hope to have it all finished next month.