Augusta GA board votes to increase travel budget

Augusta commissioners can travel more at taxpayer expense this year after voting Tuesday to increase their travel budget to $7,500 each.

Multiplied by 10, the increase is more than double what members spent on travel and training last year, when some events were canceled due to COVID-19.

“When you stop and think about what it takes to run a billion-dollar government, and you walk off the streets doing what you’ve done, to think you can run a government effectively is ridiculous. “said Acting Commissioner Alvin Mason. , who is pursuing another term in May.

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Mason said that during his previous two terms ending in 2014, he learned things at conferences that helped him straighten Augusta’s rocky path in developing a convention center, the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center and its associated car park. “We saved you millions of dollars of inequities that were happening.”

The 10-member commission, not the mayor, is grappling with oversight of the city’s budget, which has ballooned to more than $1 billion this year. The municipal administrator and department heads report directly to the commission.

Commissioners John Clarke, Catherine Smith McKnight and Dennis Williams were the only opposing members. Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Williams, who called for the raise, said Clarke and McKnight asked him to do so. Introducing the measure at an earlier meeting, Williams said the increase would allow each commissioner to attend multiple state and national conferences each year.

McKnight said she supported the increase at a committee meeting last week, but changed her mind. “I’m not going to sit there thinking about Catherine when I’m supposed to be thinking about citizens, who don’t see it that way,” she said. Clarke made an unsuccessful petition to refuse the raise.

As a consolidated city and county, Augusta chooses to double conferences held by city and county associations, while some consolidated governments choose one. At annual conferences in Savannah, commissioners mingle with leaders from less populated cities and counties in the state, as well as members from Columbus and Atlanta.

Annual dues that allow the commission to attend County Commissioners of Georgia Association conferences were $19,803 last year, while for the city group, Georgia Municipal Association, dues paid were $37. $952, according to city budget documents. Add to that a combined $16,118 for the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, bringing dues to $74,574.

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