County passes budget, Riverquarium gets some $$$ - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

County passes budget, RiverQ gets some $

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The Flint Riverquarium will get some money from the Dougherty County Commission after all. In the county's $81.1 Million, approved Monday$50,000 was earmarked for the Riverquarium.  But the budget also includes five unpaid holidays for county employees, and an increase in health insurance premiums.

One week from Monday, every Dougherty County employee, other than those in public safety, will have the day off. That's not by choice, but required because of budget constraints. In total, they'll lose 2% of their pay this year, to make it through and hope next year isn't as tough.

Flint Riverquarium board Chairwoman Emily Jean McAfee knew the Dougherty County commission wouldn't likely be able to fulfill the organization's request for $250,000.  She said, "We always understood the budget crunch. It wasn't that we didn't realize the dire situation of the lost revenues and the tax basis, but we still were making the case."

A case to keep the public partnership the facility had with the county in place. They were prepared to take a cut, but not this big.  McAfee said, "Considering zero, we're grateful for $50,000, but taking a $200,000 chop is pretty severe and I think everybody realizes that."

That being said, she's thankful the Riverquarium got funding at all.  "We're disappointed, but we're appreciative at the same time."

County finance Chairman Lamar Hudgins said he wouldn't be able to go along with funding the Riverquarium $250,000 if money had to be pulled from reserves and employees had to be furloughed, but he is comfortable with the compromise.  He said, "We cut some line items in other parts of the budget and added to that contribution."

There was a lot of budget cutting this year, more than Hudgins has had to deal with in the past. He said, "This was the worst that I've dealt with in 18 years, because we're asking employees to take five unpaid days and it's not easy."

And next year isn't likely to be any easier, but Hudgins isn't focusing on that now.  He said, "Hopefully things will change. I believe it says don't borrow on tomorrow's troubles because the interest is too high and right now, we're not going to deal with that."

Instead dealing with the victory of today, passing a balanced budget, after several long months of a balancing act.

The County commission cut the salaries of all employees, and commissioners by 2% to help with the budget crunch.  They also asked Judges and constitutional officers to voluntarily cut their pay, since they can't be forced to do so per state law.

Only four of the 13 asked to take voluntary pay cuts agreed: Sheriff Kevin Sproul, Magistrate Court Judge Robert Revell, and Superior Court Judges Stephen Goss and  Denise Marshall.

Judges John Salter, Baxter Howell, Willie Soloman,  Victoria Darrisaw, Nancy Stephenson,  Rick Brooker, Willie Lockette, Loring Gray, and Clerk of Courts Evonne Mull, all refused to make do with less.

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