Budget cuts impact county department funding - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Budget cuts impact county department funding

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Even though Dougherty County's new 2011 fiscal budget won't include tax increases or employee furloughs, cutbacks are still expected. Some Dougherty County departments were already prepared for the reductions.  

On an average day, the computer lab at the Dougherty County Library is full. Most times, there's a waiting list. Even though the county has cut the budget by .9 percent or $1 million, the demand for government services strengthens. Denicia Mulkey uses a computer almost everyday for work and school demands.

"It's very important because a lot of people are getting off work and don't have computers,"said Mulkey.

To cope with cuts, the library shortened hours, and decreased its purchasing budget by 25 percent. That means less magazines, newspapers, and book copies.

"Not having the same amount of copies and telling people they'll have to wait is difficult," said Interim Director, Ashley Moore. "We want to get it in their hands right away."

Finance Director, Karen Goff, says Dougherty County has slashed the library budget by 11 percent this year. Public Works follows at 10 percent, Mental and Public Health contributions at 6 percent, Division of Family and Child Services, the Sheriff's Department, and EMS are all at or below 5 percent cuts. 

"Our revenues are down," said Goff. "It's a balancing act. Demand for our services does not go down in a recession."

Goff's office is printing on both sides of paper just to save a buck. Other departments are facing position freezes including the D.A.'s office.

District Attorney Greg Edwards has been short an assistant district attorneys since 2008. He has a team of 16 assistants right now. It would be helpful to have more help since his circuit handles 3,000 felony and 20,000 misdemeanor cases each year.

"It's not cognizant of our budget issues," said Edwards. "Crime marches on." 

Budget restrictions keep inmates from moving from the county to the state system promptly. "Moving cases quickly through the court system saves the county and taxpayers money," Edwards added.

For him, it's a double edged sword. County officials say budget cuts across the board are necessary.

To counter a shrinking budget, some departments plan to receive grants from other resources.

The library is also able to make some money through book sales and use the profit to purchase  materials.

The county did not have to furlough any employees, and those five unpaid holidays from last year are not included in this fiscal year's budget.

 

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