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BOC looking at cost cutting measures
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County commissioners expressed frustration during Monday's Board of Commissioners work session that that options presented to close a potential budget gap of $2 million to $4 million, due to a drop in projected property tax revenues, would not be serious enough or fast enough to help meet the deficit.

In a statement released last week, BOC Chairman Richard Oden outlined cost cutting measures effective immediately, such as eliminating non-essential travel, putting on hold non-essential conferences and classes, freezing spending on projects that have not been awarded until further review, analyzing department spending, and expanding a current hiring freeze on non-essential positions.

Oden also said the department heads had identified cost cutting options and were already keeping their spending low.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said, "If we couldn't find last time around a $1.5 to $2 million cut last time around, I'm not sure how we're going to find this," she said referring to the current spending cutting options.

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt brought up recommendations he had submitted earlier in May and had discussed last year for eliminating 11 full time positions and 19 part time positions for a savings he estimated of about $325,000 for 2010 and $650,000 for 2011.

Nesbitt said, "In addition to that, my proposal did not include public safety at all. It does not mean we will have to shut down Johnson Park." He added, "However it may include a reduction of services, scaling back on some services."

"As we approach the month of July, the midway point for the yea and the budget we operate off of, we can capture some savings if we operate expeditiously," said Nesbitt.

"We can't arbitrarily start chopping people," said Oden, after the work session. "The last thing Richard Oden wants to do is lay people off. We're not a top heavy agency."

He pointed out public safety personnel made up about 55 percent of the county's 820 employees, and that general services departments had about 244 employees.

"If we cut 24 people, that's a 10 percent cut. You've got to be very careful. This impacts services," he said.

One area that the county can start looking at is furloughs and vacation days, he said.

Last year, furloughs on holidays were proposed as part of the budget for an estimated savings of about $650,000, but the paid holidays were put back in.

Van Ness also expressed frustration, at not receving enough information about the budget cutting process. "Right now, (Commissioner Nesbitt and I) know nothing," she said. "Last time, the previous chief of staff was charged with talking to department heads and getting information back. That information was never fully relayed. We weren't part of that process. This time, I would like to see if we could publically engage in the conversations for the purposes of discussion."