Dougherty Co. faced with tough decision -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty Co. faced with tough decision

County Mgr. Richard Crowdis and Judge John Salter County Mgr. Richard Crowdis and Judge John Salter

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Dougherty County leaders are debating difficult choices as they continue to work on the coming year's budget. They are considering closing a million dollar gap by furloughing every county employee for 12 days next year.

While that is only a suggestion right now, it's a real possibility and at least one department head spoke to the county finance committee, and said it's not fair.

For more than 17 years, State Court Judge John Salter has managed his department in a way that always came in at or under budget. Now, he says he doesn't want to be told he must cut his employees pay by 12 days.

"What's proposed for Dougherty County is not another day of rest, but a day that they've customarily been paid for to be not paid for without any reduction in service time."

What's more is that Salter says he's not allowed to shut down his office at the whim of the county. "I'm required by law, state law, to keep the office open five days a week."

But Commissioner Lamar Hudgins, who chairs the finance committee, says the proposed unpaid vacation days really won't interfere with the day to day operation of state court.

"Most days that we would be looking at, the offices would be closed anyway, so there aren't many days, I don't think the judge would be looking at having to meet the requirements."

And he says the county has a requirement to cut expenditures. "Government is just not immune to this, private industry has been, probably at least two years, people involved in having to cut back, use their savings, not really good times right now."

And Salter says he knows times aren't good, but the burden shouldn't rest squarely on the shoulders of employees. "My job is the administration of justice and I can't sit by and see something that I feel is fundamentally unfair to a few when the burden needs to be shared by many."

He says the county should get down to the basics, and define government in the terms of essential services.

Right now, proposals to cut vacation pay, which is an equivalent to a 4.6% pay cut, are just that, proposals.

The budget is a work in progress until adopted June 30th. The finance committee will be meeting twice a week through the month of May to discuss the budget.

Next week, they are expected to review outside funding, like the $250,000 they give to the Flint Riverquarium each year.

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