News 12 First at Five / Monday, Dec. 10, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta city employees may be getting another paid holiday. Commissioners are discussing adding Veterans Day to the holiday calendar, but that could mean more money out of your pocket.
They're talking about paying more than 2,500 workers for an additional holiday, which also means overtime pay for those who have to work, but with such a strong military community, is it worth the extra money?
It's a day set aside by the federal government to honor those who have served in the armed forces, people like retired military man and Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett.
"I'm a 20-year disabled veteran, and this past Veterans Day I was here doing commission business, and you know, that's not going to cut it," Lockett said.
He wants to add Veterans Day to the list of paid holidays for city workers.
"We did at one time celebrate Veterans Day in Augusta, and I think it is the appropriate thing to do," Lockett said.
But the economy isn't exactly what it used to be, and paid holidays cost taxpayers money.
"We would have to pay for public safety people that would be working or covering those shifts, fire, police, water treatment personnel, stuff like that, so there would be some cost there," said City Administrator Fred Russell.
But Lockett says, for this community, it's silly not to honor such an important day.
"This is a military town," he said. "We have quite a few active duty military on Fort Gordon, we have a large retirement community here, we got the VA."
Commissioner Joe Jackson says he has nothing against Veterans Day.
"But with the budget restraints that we have, we're not going to be able to accomplish and still maintain the budget," he said.
And even with next year's budget already approved, there's still some wiggle room to possibly add in a raise for city employees.
Jackson warns with Veterans Day on the table, "That could potentially cut out the employees' raises, if we're looking at that."
"I think if this holiday is put in place, and we make an adjustment on the pay increase, I think this will work out just fine," Lockett said.
Commissioners will pick up the discussion at the beginning of the new year, so it will be up to the new group of commissioners to decide the holiday's fate for employees.