City of Augusta won't declare bankruptcy anytime soon

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News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Commission seal

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Augusta is in good financial shape, according to private auditors who just finished investigating city spending. The good news comes on the heels of bad news for cities like Chicago and Detroit.

"We see what happened in Detroit with their finances, but here in Augusta, we've got a AA bond rating," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

It's good news to the mayor, considering that rating means Augusta has little to no risk of going bankrupt.

The same cannot be said for Detroit, which is $8 billion in debt.

"Our finances are strong," Copenhaver said.

"We just recommended to not raise taxes. We used the rollback tax rate, which means savings for taxpayers," said City Administrator Fred Russell.

The 2012 audit results just released show Augusta-Richmond County spent $130 million in 2012. The report shows that increase came from general government and public safety spending. It also shows leaders took $3 million out of the reserves to balance it out. Click here to read a portion of the audit.

"You cannot continue to balance a budget out of your savings account," said Commissioner Joe Jackson.

Leaders could spend even more this year, considering commissioners have approved spending $40 million on renovations at the municipal building. Commissioners could spend $15 million to move people from Hyde Park and now they're weighing whether to pump $2 million into The Patch.

"We've budgeted $3 million from the fund balance this year," Russell said.

Next year's proposed SPLOST could be used to offset costs.

"I just like to err on the side of caution. Don't spend it unless you have it and don't commit it unless it's a true need," Jackson said.

Russell says for more services like expanded bus coverage, cutting overgrown lots and tearing down dilapidated buildings, they could be forced to raise taxes. He says Augusta is still in good shape because we are no Detroit.

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