Augusta Commissioner Mary Davis doesn't want to see taxes going up next year. "That's the last place I want to look. I still think we can look at each individual departments to see if there are any other areas we can cut first," said Davis.
City Administrator Fred Russell is proposing a 2.4 percent across the board cut for all departments, but to avoid increasing taxes, he's also proposing taking $4 million out of reserves to balance the 2014 budget.
"Let's roll the dice one more time, and see the fund balance. Numbers are not that big. If we can control spending, we've been pretty good at that over the years," said Russell.
Over the years, the city has been good at balancing the budget using reserves. Each of the last five years, the city has plugged in savings to balance things out.
Three of those years, the dollars were not needed. However, the city needed more than $3 million out of reserves to balance the budget last year.
"The $4 million, I'm not uncomfortable with...hopefully, we won't use it, but I think we can balance on that," said Russell.
"Are you worried about going into the rainy day fund $4 million?" we asked Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson. "Yes, but in the whole grand scheme of things when you look at the overall budget, it's just a small portion of it, and it's not that big of a deal," he answered.
Russell is also proposing a 2 percent excise tax on industry to make up for manufacturers not paying six cents in sales taxes on the energy they buy. "It was quite a corporate gift from the state and, as I said more than once, I don't mind them giving away their four cents, but two of mine...that costs our taxpayers money. I don't think that right," said Russell.
Commissioners have set December 3rd as the deadline to balance next year's budget, but there's not total support for the proposal.
"Can you approve what's on the table?"we asked Davis. "Not the way it's being presented right now. We're still working and possibly further on, I still think there's room for cuts instead of looking at tax increases," says Davis.
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