City of Augusta invites community to participate in budget discussion events
The city of Augusta wants residents’ input on which department is expected to get the most taxpayer money, but is struggling to reach some of them. The first in a series of community engagement forums on Augusta’s future budget was held last Thursday before an audience of 20 to 30 people. Many of the residents were city employees, and several community groups were unaware of them.
The first event held on September 9 at the Julian Smith Casino featured department managers like Wes Byne of Utilities and Hawthorne Welcher, Jr. of Housing and Development.
City administrator Odie Donald II led the first event. “[This forum] is more for the average Joe than anything else, “he said.” This is the piece we focus on the most, is making sure Joe Citizen is a part of the process. “
Between snacks and discussions, participants played out a scenario in which they had to divide $ 175, which represented the approximately $ 175 million available for city services, among the various branches, and determine who deserved the most.
Between several group discussions and director’s pitches throughout the night, they had the opportunity to change their number and finally share what they think is the area most needed.
There was a mixture of opinions on the most deserving branch, including government services. Donald said he was surprised that Public Safety, while having support, didn’t have as much as it once did.
After the meeting, the Augusta Chronicle reached out to community groups and engaged the residents and asked them why they hadn’t attended and given their feedback. The People’s Agenda’s Traci George said they were never told and she was downright disappointed.
“It would be nice … if the government would reach out to community organizations so that we can help promote and lead people to these events,” said George.
Morris Porter of the National Action Network and Que McQueen of Bringing Lives and Communities Closer (BLACC) said they hadn’t heard anything about it, and if they had, they or someone in their organizations would have probably been there.
Porter said he is interested in how US bailout funds are being implemented in the community, funding the Broad Street restructuring, and just wants to “track where our city’s budget is going and what they do with it exactly “.
“I can’t speak for BLACC as a whole, but I think someone is probably going to step in (next time),” McQueen said.
City spokeswoman Danielle Harris said by email Monday that several announcements had been posted in various media formats and in their community newsletter. She also said they are hopeful that all business leaders and residents who were not present on Thursday can come to one of the upcoming forums and would like to hear their thoughts on this matter.
Three other forums were scheduled on
- Monday, September 27 at 5 p.m. at the May Park Community Center on 4th Street
- Saturday October 2 at noon at the Bernie Ward Community Center on Lumpkin Road
- Wednesday, October 13 at 5 p.m. at the Warren Road Community Center.
Masks are mandatory for all participants. Registration is available on eventbrite.com/e/city-of-augustas-community-budget-engagement-forum-tickets-165447376557?aff=erelexpmlt.
For those who cannot come in person but would like to give their opinion, an online survey is available at augustaga.gov.