Lee County takes in its belt a notch or two - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lee County takes in its belt a notch or two

November 16, 2006

Leesburg -- Lee County is facing a budget deficit projected at $500,000 just five months into the fiscal year.   Commissioners this afternoon started cutbacks to try and balance the budget, including laying off four employees.              

Lee County Commissioners agreed immediate action was needed to stop a projected $500,000 to $600,000 budget deficit facing South Georgia's fastest growing county.

County Administrator Alan Ours says revenue shortfalls and expense overruns have already shown glaring problems in the budget. "There were some departments where office supplies were completely left out of the budget. One of the largest departments, the Sheriff's Department, his fuel budget was actually less this year than last."

After a one hour executive session, commissioners voted to lay off four employees December First, just before the Christmas Holidays. "Anytime is not a good time to make those kind of decisions, but the board felt like it was in the best interest of the county," Ours said.

The County Administrators administrative assistant, the network manager, the county plan reviewer, and one heavy equipment operator will be laid off, saving $61,000 in salaries in the next seven months.

Commissioners also voted to cut off all unessential cell phones for county employees, and place the Recreation Department and Grand Island Golf Course directly under County Administrator Alan Ours, so he could begin making more cutbacks, and more cuts are necessary.    

"In addition to putting the freeze on hiring two nights ago, equates to approximately $300,000. So they are halfway there," Ours said.

Other Department heads said the county's growth makes cutbacks hard. Clerk of Courts Ann Nix said, "It wuld be tough for us to cut an employee in my office, to keep up with the workload that comes in everyday."

"They should look at any area they might could cut other than staff members. Because we need our employees to keep the county going everyday," said Tax Commissioner Betty Johnson.

But Ours said 70 percent of the county operating budget goes toward personnel, and Commissioners ordered him to balance the budget now. And he started doing that this afternoon.

After the meeting, Ours called in four Lee County employees to tell them their jobs have been eliminated. He said they would try not to cutback non-essential services as much as possible.

Lee County's Recreation Department budget is nearly one half million dollars, and Grand Island Golf Course has needed $20,000 a month recently to stay open. Those could be areas where cutbacks are made.

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