Youth programs fight for funds to prevent crime in Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — City of Augusta leaders have less than two weeks to finalize the budget, and there are concerns there won’t be enough to go around all departments and organizations asking for more money.

Bobby Williams, a member of the Augusta Commission, even warned that some programs could even see their budget reduced.

Last year, Augusta passed its biggest budget ever, nearly $1 billion.

After much back and forth with the city administrator and finance director, the Augusta Commission set another budget workshop for Monday.

Several departments are asking for budget increases, but have no strategy on where to find the money. It is a difficult situation where some programs could really use the funds.

Among these programs are efforts to prevent children from a life of crime.

Chief Justice Willie Saunders said: “They end up being in our minors, or people just beyond our threshold: 17, 18, 19 and into 20.”

Saunders oversees more than a dozen programs to help children.

While their budget is currently pegged at around $1.6 million, he says they have around five employees caring for hundreds of children. Children who are part of Augusta’s recent rise in crime.

“Over the past year since I came back on the bench, we’ve noticed an increase in so many different areas, it’s really hard for us to just sustain,” Saunders said.

These services include therapy, sex education, and even gun safety for parents.

Despite their needs, city leaders say the budget is already stretched thin.

District 7 Augusta Commission member Sean Frantom said, “At the end of the year, we kind of spend it all. It’s just unbelievable that this is how we budget and there is no justification for $150,000 when I’m looking for 4-13. If you look at the sides coming in here…it’s just a little frustrating.

Hopefully the city’s priorities will be set in less than two weeks

Saunders said: “We’re maxed out, and the need is even greater.”

The deadline to finalize the budget is November 15.