AUGUSTA — Voters on Tuesday will decide the fate of seven proposed changes to the city charter, including one that would eliminate the requirement that a charter review commission be formed every 10 years.

Augusta residents will also be asked whether they approve of the proposed roughly $30.5 million school budget.

Many of the charter changes are fairly technical in nature with one, for example, changing the day of the first City Council meeting of the year to Thursday, when the council normally meets, instead of the current Monday.

The change that prompted the most debate would replace a current charter requirement that a charter commission be formed every 10 years to review the charter and consider changes with a requirement, instead, that city councilors simply consider forming a charter commission for that purpose.



Mayor David Rollins said that would allow fairly routine changes to the charter to take place and be proposed to voters without the time and expense of forming a charter commission, while still providing for a commission to be formed if more in-depth changes are needed. He said citizens could still use the petition process to seek to have changes to the charter put on the ballot.

“If we’ve got a lot of things that have become outdated (in the charter) maybe we’ll need a full-blown commission. Otherwise, if it’s just housekeeping things, the council would put (proposed changes) on a referendum,” Rollins said. “The citizen initiative process is still there. We’re not cutting the people out of it – the charter is still the people’s. We’re just trying to be more efficient.”

The charter is the city’s main guiding document, specifying the structure of city government and how it functions.

Another charter change would increase the amount of money that could be borrowed through a bond – with the approval of city councilors without seeking residents’ approval in a referendum – from the current $750,000 to $1 million. Councilors generally use bonds to pay for major capital repairs or purchases.

Rollins said the increase to $1 million before voter approval is needed for the council to seek bond funding reflects the increasing cost of items and services.

“It’s just a representation of the increasing cost of building things and repairing things,” he said. “It’s just keeping pace.”

The full text of the charter changes is viewable on the city clerk’s website.

City polling places are scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Polling locations are: Ward 1, Buker Community Center gym, 22 Armory St.; Ward 2 Augusta City Center Council Chambers, 16 Cony St.; Ward 3 Augusta Civic Center north wing, 76 Community Drive; and Ward 4 Cony High School band room, 60 Pierce Drive.

The school board approved a $30.8 million budget in March, but since then, city councilors, who determine the final proposed school budget amount, cut $300,000 from that proposed budget before approving it as part of the combined $62.7 million city and school budget.

The $300,000 school budget cut was part of a series of proposed changes to City Manager William Bridgeo’s initial $63 million budget proposal, and is expected to bring the tax increase required to fund the budget down from the previous 6.6 percent to a just under 3 percent.

Rollins said the school budget, even with the cuts, still includes many new items for the schools and he recommends voters approve it.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kedwardskj