Dougherty furloughs will create financial hardship for some - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty furloughs will create financial hardship for some

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – We're learning more tonight about just how much of a hardship 12 unpaid holidays would be on many Dougherty County employees. As the finance committee continues to sort through the budget, department heads want them to think about how their decisions will affect workers.

Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson says she isn't one to quote scripture, but Wednesday a verse out of Deuteronomy 24 spoke to her, it's about consideration for people in need, a message she wanted to get across to county commissioners.

Judge Nancy Stephenson quotes a verse right out of the bible, "You shall not oppress a hard servant who is poor and needy."

Judge Stephenson says her employees provide a necessary service to the county and its taxpayers. And now, they are the ones in need of consideration.

She said, "They are supporting households on a very low wage." And Stephenson says cutting their pay by close to five percent, plus increasing insurance premiums will be more than some can bear.

"I'm talking about people who bring home, some of them, less than $600 every two weeks and their entire families are being supported by this," said Stephenson.  She says a budget shortfall shouldn't solely be placed upon the shoulders of employees.

"It's a little unfair to ask just a group of 600 county employees to absorb an entire county's budget shortfall. It seems to be a supertax on just a little group."

Sadly, it's a burden that must be born, in order to weather the financial crisis the county is in. "Our largest expense item is personnel.  Two thirds of the budget and that would be with any county, so that's where you have to look to cut costs," said Committee Finance Chairman Lamar Hudgins.

And hope that the employees who are impacted, can handle the storm.

The 12 unpaid holidays would save the county about $1.2 Million. Even with that savings, the county must pull more than three million dollars from its reserve fund to balance the budget. If revenues don't turn around for the county, tougher decisions will have to be made next year.

That could mean layoffs and benefit changes for employees or higher taxes for property owners.

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