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Posted: February 20, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Our Thoughts... Disappointing turn

  There is no question that our country and county are in the toughest of economic times.

 Local businesses and governmental agencies are struggling to keep themselves on level ground.

 Some of the decisions being made are affecting real people; those types of decisions hurt all of us.

 Work weeks have been shortened, salaries frozen, employees have been forced to take time off without pay and, unfortunately, many have lost their jobs.

 If our economy is to survive, then these are the types of hard decisions that have to be made.

 At a public meeting Saturday the Newton County Board of Commissioners listened as County Administrative Officer John Middleton went line-item by line-item through departmental budgets they had asked managers to reduce.

 Our Managing Editor Jennifer Long, was there for the entire six-hour-plus meeting. Her report of that meeting appeared in Sunday’s edition.

 It was standing room only at the following Tuesday night board meeting — most attendees were employed by the county. The board chose to adopt a plan devised by County Chairwoman Kathy Morgan and Middleton after Saturday’s work session had ended and after we reported on it.

 In a 3-2 vote the board delayed discussing furloughs or salary cuts until department managers could see if they could squeeze any more out of their bone-dry budgets.

 Most of the audience left in an orderly fashion after the vote without hearing exactly how the sour economy would affect their paychecks.

 This was a great opportunity for the board to be up front and straightforward with their employees and county residents.

 We were surprised and disappointed that a respected member of the board, Mort Ewing, made a public attempt to infer that The Covington News had provided false information to its readers about the Saturday meeting.

 Commissioner J.C. Henderson respectfully challenged Mr. Ewing’s statement and said the story was fair and accurate. We appreciate Mr. Henderson’s open honesty.

 Sending the budgets back to the department heads suggested the board didn’t really want to handle the "tough decisions" they’ve been talking about making. If the buck stops at the commission, then they should decide what happens with the bucks.

 Also, if a decision is made to change schedules or payroll, the board should treat their employees like adults and be honest with them. Many of these employees are hometown heroes in the public safety sector or brilliant engineers and IT specialists — they are all smart enough to know that a reduced paycheck is better than no paycheck at all.

 It appears to us that some kind of payroll deduction across the board would be the fairest decision. Other options would be to eliminate positions, departments or increase taxes or millage rates.

 Sometimes leaders have to make difficult, unpopular decisions for the greater good. That is why people elect them to lead.

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