Submitted by Ellen Knoernschild
When 1929 began, Augusta, MO was enjoying the results of a massive street improvement program. Bonds had been issued which committed the Town to $38.75 per year towards their repayment. The Town also paid $365 a year in drainage tax, an amount which was never lowered during the depression years which followed; the rate now is $385. The tax rate was 25 cents/$100 ($17.16 cents now); taxes collected in 1929 amounted to $1122. Receipts for 1929 were $2147 and expenditures $1970. Laborers were paid 35 cents per hour.
In the next two years, receipts and expenses dropped only slightly. However, in November 1931, the board lowered the wage rate to 27-1/2 cents per hour. The Town authorized hiring “taxpayers” at $2.00 per day for work clearing land in the bottom. In December 1931, the Bank of Augusta failed; the Town had only $132.40 (three months' electric bills) on deposit there. Over the coming years, the Bank did make annual payments of 5% of the money.
Income dropped to $1064 in 1932 and did not improve until 1936. Taxes went from $1150 to an average of $448 for the next 5 years. Farm rent was almost nothing some years, partly due to floods. Average yearly expenditures of $1200, however, always had to include that $449 for drainage tax and bond repayment.
By the end of 1933, money was really short. Board members were paid only 1/3 of their salary, and the rate was lowered to 75 cents per meeting. The Town applied for federal assistance with jobs for the unemployed through the “CWA Plan.” The federal government would pay 90% of the cost for 4000 hours of work at 25 cents per hour; the Town obtained its 10% by borrowing $100 from a bond due May 1935. Workers would maintain the streets (complaints about street conditions were as prevalent as today.)
In the first 6 months of 1934 the only two expenditures were for the drainage tax and streetlights. Labor was lowered to 21 cents per hour. In May 1934, electrical service was discontinued at the town hall, saving $1.25 per month. Town meetings continued to be held at 8:00 p.m. -- presumably conducted by candlelight. The monthly charge for streetlights was lowered from $37.50 to $25.00 by using 60-watt bulbs in the lights. Light bulbs, at 20 cents each (almost the same as an hour of labor), continued to be a monthly expense. Financial conditions did not improve until 1936, when the labor rate was raised to 30 cents per hour.
Stay tuned! Ellen will have more from the Augusta Town Board Records in the coming months.