Holiday pay cuts, furloughs possible for county - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Holiday pay cuts, furloughs possible for county

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Dougherty County employees may soon feel the impact of the recession in their pay checks. As tax revenue continues to decline, the county is considering taking away holiday pay for employees. It's not a formal proposal yet, but they are crunching the numbers to see how much money the county could save.

Right now, county employees are paid for 10 holidays that they don't have to work. And so far, they haven't faced furloughs, pay cuts or layoffs, but all that may change soon.

Dougherty County isn't in a free fall when it comes to finances. There is money in the bank to cover cash flow and operating expenses, but that account continues to get smaller.

This year, about three million dollars will have to be withdrawn to cover current expenses, including a $1 Million shortage in the employee health plan. 

Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said, "Our claims have been more than the premiums and these times the county commission has decided not to increase premiums at a time when we could not increase salaries, so we're just going to have to do something, we either have to increase premiums or reduce benefits."

And it's possible they'll have to reduce salaries as well, at least as far as implementing furloughs or eliminating holiday pay.  Hudgins said, "Reality is, we're going to have to do what we have to do to keep the budget in line."

But it's a hard line for Sheriff Kevin Sproul to cross. He cut his budget for this year, and has cut another 5% from the budget he proposed for next. "That's cutting as much as we can cut without cutting personnel and we're running bare bones right now with personnel."

But within the county, personnel make up the biggest chunk of the budget, and therefore, that's the area that will likely be targeted to make a difference in the bottom line. "You can't write a check out of your check book if you don't have money in there to cover it and that's how government is run, too," said Sproul. 

The budget talks are only now beginning, no formal proposals about any cuts or furloughs have been presented.

Sheriff Sproul says there is a danger in furloughing or cutting public safety, both for the public and his employees out at the jail and at the courthouse.

The Sheriff did say he realizes that his budget makes up about a quarter of the entire general fund for the county, and he knows giving his office as much money as he would like is difficult during tough economic times.

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