County works to slash expenses, keep jobs - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

County works to slash expenses, keep jobs

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Dougherty County is facing a multi-million dollar budget shortfall. Commissioners are implementing policies they hope will save $1.6 Million before the end of this fiscal year. But they're worried about next year's budget too.

Sales Tax dollars aren't coming in as projected, and the budget deadline has been extended for department heads, so they can slash 10% from their budgets.

Just last month, county officials used the F-word when discussing what to do about a budget shortfall. Furloughs won't be necessary right now, but other steps are being taken immediately to stop the bleeding.

"Revenues have decreased by $2.6 Million and we don't have a printing press for money like the federal government. We have to decrease our expenditures," said Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins.

The decrease in revenues is about 9% from last fiscal year. The county already planned to bring $3.9 Million from reserves to balance the budget. Now they'll have to bring an additional $2.6 Million from reserves just to finish out the next four months, or cut expenses.

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said, "Right now, we're about $6.5 Million potentially out of whack, that's our estimate that we're going to be down on the budget between now and the end of June."

Starting immediately, there is a freeze on capital equipment purchases unless there is an essential public safety or public health issue. That should save about a million dollars. All travel and training have been suspended, unless mandated by state or federal regulations.

That should shave $50,000 All existing and future vacancies will be frozen, unless it's critical to public safety. That's estimated to save $150,000, and overtime has been suspended unless absolutely critical, that's a savings of $400,000.

That still leaves the county looking for another million in savings to balance out the budget. "We're hoping once that trend of $1.6 Million begins that more savings can be found that would not require furloughs," said Hudgins.

And they are looking ahead to the next budget. The commission voted to extend departmental budget proposal to request all departments reduce their budgets by 10% of their current appropriations. A tough task, but one that may save jobs.

Sinyard said, "We really don't know what the economy is going to bring us, but we're trying to be prudent business people, we're trying to protect our employees, trying to keep all our employees working."

While trying to maintain services for the taxpayers who fund those positions. Even with the savings of $1.6 Million-dollars, Dougherty County's reserve balance will be lower than what leaders would like. Typically, the county keeps three months operating expenses in reserves. The reserve fund will likely dip below that mark.

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