Columbia County officials Tuesday presented a drastically slashed proposed budget for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue.
Initially, the fire department proposed a $9.4 million budget, almost $464,000 more than last year. County officials balked at the increase because every other department has been asked to cut 5 percent from their budgets.
On Tuesday, Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker presented a fire department budget asking only for an additional $37,000. That represents a 0.6 percent increase over last year.
Tucker said the increase is needed to maintain the current level of service.
While looking for cuts, officials noticed that a $25,000 gift for Augusta's Kroc Center had been included. Commissioners approved that expense last year, but as a one-time gift.
Commissioners decided to divert the money to the county's almost $435,000 supplement for the Health Department, which needs $21,731 to maintain its level of service, according to county documents.
Commissioners might cut $25,000 for Fort Discovery, but might provide more than $11,000 to the University of Georgia Extension Service for a part-time extension agent.
As a cushion in case the economy worsens, officials decided to reduce revenue expectations for next year by $500,000 to about $54.1 million.
The budget includes no new hires, no merit raises, no insurance increases, a 73-percent reduction in Fleet Services requests, a 27-percent reduction in other capital requests, and other employee restructuring to continue salary savings of more than $1 million already accumulated this fiscal year.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said more drastic measures might become necessary the following year if revenue doesn't increase.
"I think we've done a good job (on the 2010-11 budget) ... but a lot of the low-hanging fruit has been picked," he said.
Further cuts likely will be "more painful," he said.
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