City budgets being slashed - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City budgets being slashed

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You should expect cuts to Albany city services in the coming year. City Commissioners are working on next year's budgets and it includes tough cuts. As things stand now, you won't see fireworks on the 4th of July and kids planning to splash in the Carver Pool won't be able to. The city may also reduce the number of demolitions of dilapidated buildings.

Cut them up by 10%. That's what city department heads were told to do to their budgets before they brought them before the commission. "95% of our budget is personnel costs. If you start cutting the budget, you have to start cutting into personnel. Once you start cutting personnel, then you start on diminished service delivery," said Fire Chief James Carswell.

To keep from having to eliminate 15 positions and shut down one fire station, Carswell is having to dip into a reserve fund and bring over about $800,000.

Phil Roberson, Director of Public Works, doesn't have a reserve fund to dip from. His department is cutting responsibilities that aren't charter specific, like helping with lots of demolitions.

Roberson said, "The peripheral issues we do for other departments, the projects we do within the city that we don't have funds for, those are going to have to be put on the shelf for a while, because we're going to have to do the things that the charter obligates. We have mission critical things we're asked to do. Those will be our number one priority with the reduced budget."

Code enforcement Director Mike Tilson says his department has also reduced the amount of funding they'll set aside for demos. The good news, is this year they moved ahead of schedule. They won't stop, just slow down. He said, "Basically, that will give us a breath to take in terms of demolition. Public works is challenged next year to do that work for us anyway and the additional funds coming from the federal government may fix that and able us to continue demo."

Parks and recreation is slashing the budget too. Fireworks cost $1000/minute to put on a show... that's a cost the department doesn't view as vital to the community, and the Carver swimming pool may not be open this summer either.  It costs more than $100,000 to operate for just 13 weeks.

Suzanne Davis said, "Those are emotional cuts and recreation is emotional. That's what we provide. We're the fun go-to people, so it does hurt when we have to eliminate or reduce some of the opportunities that we present to the community."

All the budget presentations are simply suggestions right now. The commission may add or cut from any department so long as the final decision is made by June 30th.

If the Carver pool is closed, the recreation department has worked out a deal with the YMCA and the Boys' and Girls' club to use their pools at a discounted rate.

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