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Street lights issue leaves city to fix a $2 million budget deficit



AUGUSTA,Ga. – Augusta commissioners talked street lights on Friday. They met to discuss an issue they say is costing the city millions.

Paying for street lights is a problem Augusta can’t turn off. This year, city leaders are trying to find the brightest billing method to fix a $2 million budget deficit.

In 2018, commission members approved new street light fees for both residents and businesses to close a more than one million dollar shortfall in the budget, but the new rates still do not cover the costs of operating and expanding the program.

The current rates for residential in suburban districts who have neighborhood street lights are billed at $85 per parcel. All commercial properties are billed at $107.36.

“My take away once again it definitely brings to mind the fact that we need to find a way to resolve this and hopefully we can find a plan that the six of us at the minimum could live with,” says Commissioner Ben Hasan who’s in charge of District 6.

NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Flete spoke to John Ussery with the City’s Traffic Engineering department on finding a solution to the issue.

“Finance gives us what they can and they do a great job giving us what they can but to be honest our annual budget is low for the amount of lights that we have, so this would help with that situation.”

As Augusta continues to grow, so does the size of the problem.

“Out of the 25,000 lights in Richmond county. Augusta owns roughly 5,000 of the lights and Georgia Power owns about 19,000 lights. Eventually, as our system ages and as we replace the older street lights that Augusta owns we would like to change them over to Georgia Power so they can just manage the whole program,” says Ussery.

City leaders have yet to come to a decision on how to solve the problem, but more meetings dates are expected moving forward.

“When you talk about the city of Augusta there was a plan that was in place and it wasn’t necessarily comparable to paying their light fees. Now we’re in a place where we need to put some new lights in place and things of that nature. And we just don’t have the money to do it and so as a result of that we have a 2 million dollar deficit.

Finance program director Donna Williams says the city needs to have an answer to this problem by may of this year.