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Hall County’s personnel fund might see budget cuts

Options include one unpaid day off a month

POSTED: October 10, 2008 5:01 a.m.

County employees may be forced to take off one day a month without pay if the Board of Commissioners institutes a number of cost-cutting initiatives discussed at the commission’s work session Monday.

Interim Hall County Administrator Charley Nix presented the board with a number of measures the county likely will need to use if revenues continue to drop as expected.

Because 70 percent of the county’s general fund budget goes toward personnel costs, Nix laid out ways to save money without having to lay off employees.

"This is not an overspending problem ... This is a revenue problem," Nix said. "Reduction in employee expenses is necessary."

Hall County has been making other budget cuts all year, but Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton said personnel cuts are a necessary last resort.

Hard economic times have caused revenues to drop in Hall County so far this year, and more shortfalls are expected.

"It’s extremely unusual. In the last 18 years that I’ve been around this local government and others, it’s the first time I’ve seen revenues actually decrease in a growing community," Sutton said. "It’s very atypical for our situation."

The measure that is likely to receive the most reaction from county employees is a mandatory furlough. If approved, all county employees would be required to take off one day, or eight hours, a month without pay.

The furlough would save Hall County about $1.7 million.

Court Administrator Reggie Forrester emphasized the new cost-saving measures would apply to everyone, including elected officials and department heads, in an effort to avoid layoffs.

"It’s equal sacrifice from top to bottom," he said.

Though the mandatory furlough would result in a 4.5 percent salary reduction, it would prevent about 44 people from losing their jobs, Sutton said.

The state already has approved a furlough for its employees.

Some people who work in District Attorney Lee Darragh’s office are paid by the state and others are county employees. Darragh said he is not pleased with the mandatory furlough.

"People who work for the public in jobs like ours certainly are not pleased," Darragh said. "However we understand the situation the state and the county’s in, and we’ll do our part since we have little choice in the matter."

Darragh said his office will continue to provide the same amount of service despite the lower hours.

"Crime and criminality does not furlough itself nor lay itself off. We will certainly continue to do our best in a very difficult situation to ensure the effective prosecution of criminals, and hope that this situation will relieve itself soon," Darragh said.

Other new measures include eliminating unplanned overtime, eliminating promotions to fill vacancies and offering voluntary layoffs.

Those who choose to leave voluntarily will quit working for a specified time, but will be able to keep benefits and be guaranteed their position back after that time period has ended.

The county also will extend previous money saving efforts.

The hiring freeze for noncritical positions will continue, and there will still be a hold on capital purchases.

Capital projects, such as road construction, landfills and community centers, are funded separately.

Those projects are funded through the 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax. The proposed projects on the SPLOST VI referendum will appear on the ballot March 17.

The commission plans to vote on the cost-saving measures at its Thursday board meeting.



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