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No buses or books: Here's how you could be affected by Macon-Bibb budget cuts

Health official: 'These cuts are not without significant ramifications'

Anita Barkin, deputy director of the North Central Health District, speaks Friday, June 29, 2018, about the impact of the Macon-Bibb County budget that cut out $10 million for outside agencies.
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Anita Barkin, deputy director of the North Central Health District, speaks Friday, June 29, 2018, about the impact of the Macon-Bibb County budget that cut out $10 million for outside agencies.

Update: The head of the transit authority said Saturday that buses are expected to run next week except for the Fourth of July, after a committee of the County Commission decided late Friday to offer budget amendments that include funding for the bus system.

Buses were to stop running Saturday, although the service got a reprieve. Three libraries will close on Monday. Meals on Wheels could stop serving 7,000 meals later this year.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission passed a $149 million budget with no tax increase Thursday, but the fallout is far reaching. In approving the budget, commissioners cut $10 million in funding for outside agencies.

Commissioners are expected Tuesday to consider restoring funding to some of these agencies, such as the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority.

Here's a look at the affected agencies and what will happen to them — and the people they serve — if they don't receive funding.

(In addition to this list, Macon-Bibb County Parks and Recreation and Parks and Beautification departments would close at the end of July, leaving roughly 100 employees looking for work elsewhere. Bowden Golf Course would also close as well.)

Middle Georgia Regional Library

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $2,875,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: The Riverside, Shurling and Lanford branches of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System will close indefinitely on Monday. Washington Memorial Library, which offers services the others do not, will remain open until reserve savings are depleted. The library is at risk of also losing $920,893 from the state, said Jennifer Lautzenheiser, director of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System. For now, the library system’s 67 employees will continue to receive a paycheck. “Because we closed the other branches, we can make it to July 31,” she said.

Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $2,316,500

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: The bus system will stop operating after 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Many of the 3,000 daily riders use buses to get to and from work, but for some of those bus riders it could be the difference in getting medical treatment, said Craig Ross, president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority. "The biggest issue is Para-transit," he said. "We have 140 riders per day, half of those are dialysis patients. They've got to get treatment three times a week, and for most of them (Para-transit) is critical."

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Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $900,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Jim Thomas, planning and zoning’s executive director, said the lost funding amounts to about half of his agency’s operating budget. “Our total budget is $1.7 million,” Thomas said. The impact is “mind-boggling,” he added. “We can’t operate on that. If Macon-Bibb expects us to continue to do the work and not pay us for that, we’ll have to reduce services to a huge degree. That’d be a mixture of cuts in expenditures, personnel and then it would force a cut in services.” The agency has 14 full-time employees. “When you lose half your budget, well then you can figure you’ll lose half your personnel,” Thomas said. “The personnel costs are basically 80 percent of our budget.” He believes there stands to be a “substantial” scaling back of service, which includes possible permitting delays.

Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $858,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $350,000

The agency that helps recruit and retain large companies will have to see what type of cuts need to be made if the budget cuts persist, said Robby Fountain, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority. The authority has some money in its reserves fund that could hold it over for a little while, he said. As a part of the new budget, the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority would receive $350,000. But that funding covers some debt the county is contractually obligated to pay, Fountain said.

Bibb County Division of Family and Children Services

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $807,500

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Walter Jones, communications director for the state Division of Family and Children’s Services, said the department does not comment on policy decisions, but several programs could be affected by cuts to funding from the local government. He said the money allocated to the department from the county government last year funded programs to support foster children, investigations into allegations of mistreatment of children and personnel costs.

Board of Physical Health

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $680,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Medical Center, Navicent

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $451,600

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Board of Mental Health

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $403,750

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Tubman Museum

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $230,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Museum of Arts and Sciences

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $230,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $192,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: All of the Land Bank's operational expenses are covered by Macon-Bibb County. Without funding, the land bank authority would close after its reserves run out, said executive director Alison Souther Goldey. The mission of the land bank authority is to eliminate blight, create affordable housing and enhance economic activity.

Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $110,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $108,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Executive director Alex Morrison, reached via email, described the cuts as “an existential threat” to daily operations at the authority. “As a government entity we cannot raise funds for operating the way other non-profits can,” Morrison said. “We also have requirements for accounting, insurance, legal fees, audit fees and more that all stem from our governmental nature. While many projects will continue, a lot of the momentum would be stopped.” He said the funding loss will lead to staffing cuts, affecting two employees. “Staff will be able to continue for a couple of months to set up operations for the future,” Morrison added, “whatever they may be.”

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $100,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Jim McClendon, executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, said Friday that “in all likelihood we’ll have some reduced hours of operation. That could mean a day that we don’t open or a day that we open later in the day.” The sports hall employs up to half a dozen part-time employees, McClendon said, and some of them may have to be laid off, “or at very least reduce a lot of their hours.”

Douglass Theatre

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $100,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $98,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Meals on Wheels

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $47,300

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Without county funding, Meals on Wheels won’t be able to serve 7,000 meals in the upcoming fiscal year. That’s a year’s worth of meals for 28 clients who will no longer get the food they need. Executive Director Tanya Graham-Simms said the budget cuts will likely start to impact the organization around August or September, so her primary goal is to secure as many resources as possible from other funding sources before then. But if enough supplemental funding doesn’t come through, she’s not sure how grave the impact could be. She’ll be working with her administrative team and board of directors to develop an action plan to serve as many people as possible and give at least 30 days notice to those who will no longer receive meals. Regardless, she expects the organization’s ever-growing wait list to get even longer in the coming months.

Macon Arts Alliance

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $40,000

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Julie Wilkerson, executive director of the Macon Arts Alliance, said it is hard to know what might happen. The money that the Macon Arts Alliance receives from the county is 10 percent of its total budget. The funds are used to cover general operating costs such as rent, salaries and programs. If their funding is reduced more than 10 percent, Wilkerson said her organization may have to cut some programs.

Macon-Bibb Citizen Advocacy

Amount received in fiscal 2018: $4,500

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

Impact: Could not be reached for comment.

Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority

Amount in fiscal 2018 budget: $0

Amount in fiscal 2019 budget: $0

The county was set to pay for the first time $96,000 to the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority to run the childhood home of Little Richard as a resource center in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. Now it's up to county officials to decide how else it will manage the center, said State Rep. James Beverly, who is also the chairman of the enhancement authority. Little Richard’s childhood home was relocated and renovated as part of the Georgia Department of Transportation mitigation plan tied to the Interstate 75/16 expansion. The lack of funding from the county doesn’t impact the authority’s mitigation work, but the county would be breaking its agreement with GDOT if the resource center is not opened, Beverly said. There is a possibility that the county could face litigation from a neighborhood association, or GDOT may ask to be reimbursed for the renovation costs, he added.

Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member and reports for The Telegraph with support from the News/CoLab at Arizona State University. Learn more about Report for America at www.reportforamerica.org.

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