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$55.7 million budget first read passed
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The Board of Commissioners approved the first reading of the $55.7 million 2012 general fund budget in a 2-1 vote Tuesday, with Commissioner JaNice Van Ness voting against.

The proposed budget reportedly represents a 1 percent increase from the 2011 budget. The county would pay for the $3.1 million shortfall out of fund balance, or the amount unused from this year’s revenues. Previously, Finance Director Roselyn Miller said the county was on track to be about 5 percent under budget.

Van Ness said, “We’re at $3.1 million; we would have to take from fund balance, which would be a historical move. We have not done that in the past. I hope we will consider that and refine our budget further.” She added that the budget did not include increases for employees.

She said cuts she had been discussing with Miller, which were not reflected in the first read budget, included possibly privatizing and outsourcing the HR department except for one or two county employees.

“While our HR department does a fine job it’s really more about a cost savings initiative,” she said. “The final proposal should be available very soon.”

Miller said the budget in the first read had not changed from the Nov. 1 budget hearing, but the county was still making adjustments. “By next week, we’ll have a more firm budget,” she said.

The next work session is Dec. 6, 6 p.m. at the JP Carr Community Center. The second reading for the 2012 budget is on Dec. 13, 10 a.m. at 901 Main Street.

In other BOC business:

Rockdale Water Resources will add another customer service representative after moving funding from an unfilled inspector position. About $29,000 was shifted and a third, unfilled inspector position was eliminated, leaving the headcount unchanged. This means RWR would need to come before the BOC if it wanted to fill that position in the future. RWR Director Dwight Wicks said, “The need is based on customer response, the number of phone calls and service request. During our peak times, we still do not have enough people to service the demand. This will enable us to provide service during the peak time periods… and reduce the waiting times.”