Youth programs fight for funds to prevent crime in Augusta

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:31 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta city leaders have less than two weeks to finalize the budget, and there are concerns there isn’t enough to go around to all the departments and organizations asking for more money.

Augusta Commission member Bobby Williams even warned some programs might even have their budgets cut.

Last year, Augusta passed its biggest budget ever, nearly a billion dollars.

After a lot of back-and-forth questions with the city administrator and the finance director, the Augusta Commission has set another budget workshop for Monday.

Several departments are asking for budget increases, but have no strategy on where to find the money. It’s a tough spot to be in when some programs could really use the funds.

Among those programs are efforts meant to keep kids from a life of crime.

Chief Judge Willie Saunders said: “They end up being in our juveniles, or people just past our threshold: 17,18,19 and into 20.”

Saunders oversees more than a dozen programs to help kids.

While their budget is currently set around $1.6 million, he says they have about five employees in charge of hundreds of kids. Kids who are a part of Augusta’s recent uptick in crime.

“Over the last year, since I’ve returned to the bench, we’ve noticed an uptick in so many different areas, that it’s really difficult for us to just maintain,” said Saunders.

These services include therapy, sex education, and even gun safety for parents.

Despite their need, city leaders say the budget is already spread thin.

District 7 Augusta Commission member Sean Frantom said: “By the end of the year, we somehow spend it all. It’s just amazing that that’s the way we do budgeting and that there’s no justification for $150,000 when I’m looking for 4-13. If you’re looking at the sides coming up it’s just a little bit frustrating.”

Hopefully, city priorities are figured out with less than two weeks left

Saunders said: “We’re maxed, and the need is even greater.”

The deadline to finalize the budget is Nov. 15.