County furlough days = 4.6% pay cut - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

County furlough days = 4.6% pay cut

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County Administrator Richard Crowdis County Administrator Richard Crowdis
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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –Dougherty County employees are facing grim news for the upcoming budget year. The County commission voted earlier this week to increase health insurance premiums.

Now, furloughs are on the table-- 12 unpaid days, which equates to a 4.6% reduction in pay.
That's a hard pill to swallow, after years of not getting cost of living or merit pay increases.

The County finance committee met today to look at what shape the county is in. County Administrator Richard Crowdis says the county must take severe, strong actions never taken before, and that employees will have to sacrifice.

His suggestion to save a million dollars is to implement furlough days, but there are other options on the table, like cutting money the county gives to outside agencies like the economic development commission and the Flint Riverquarium.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis delivered the news to the county finance committee in a somber tone, but it fell as a deafening blow.

"The biggest part of expenditures in our budget and most any local government budget is in salaries and benefits.  It's two thirds, so that's where we have to go now.  We're getting into the very painful cutting where we're looking at furloughs and unpaid days to reduce immediately the cost of government," Crowdis said.

It's imperative what the county spends is cut, because revenues have dropped dramatically.
The tax digest has dropped by seven and a half percent.  Which means the county will take in about half a million dollars less.

There's also been a drop in sales tax and in fines and forfeitures the county relies on for income.

"It's going to hit the employees now in the pocketbook," Crowdis said.

First, in higher health insurance premiums.  Those begins July 1st, and if the 12 unpaid days are also implemented, they will begin in July as well. "Everything is on the table.  Employees will have to sacrifice."

But so will other agencies that depend on the county for money. The Flint Riverquarium gets 250-thousand dollars a year to help fund operations.

Commissioner Lamar Hudgins says he can't imagine furloughing employees and not cutting what is given to the Riverquarium.

"No, I couldn't fund that and then have to look at employees and say you're going to have to take 12 unpaid holidays, no," said County Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins.

But even cutting out the Riverquarium, Economic Development commission, senior center and other agencies the county gives money to won't be enough.  Furloughs will remain on the table, even if not all 12 days.

"It's a very deep recession," said Hudgins. Cutting employees where it hurts the most, while trying to stop the bleeding in the budget.

One area there has been a significant drop in ad valorem taxes is with motor vehicle tax.
It seems people just are not buying new cars.  There has been a drop in collections by $22.4 Million.  Normally, motor vehicle taxes increase each year from three to five percent.

The county finance committee plans to meet twice a week for the rest of May to discuss the upcoming budget. They hope to bring furlough recommendations to the full commission soon, so employees and department heads will be able to make plans before those are implemented in July.

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