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Budget reductions stalled
BOC to take up cuts again on Wednesday, 10 a.m.
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With less than 10 days to go to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Board of Commissioners hotly debated making the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas into unpaid holidays, among other budget reducing measures at their Monday work session. They also expressed frustration at the lack of progress in reducing the proposed 2010 budget.

The proposed 2010 budget is currently at around $55.9 million, after about $1.2 million in cuts made in September, but needs to be around $53.3 million to match revenue projections, according to Finance Director Roselyn Miller.

Miller presented a list of budget reducing options at the work session, which included reduction, transfer or elimination of non-mandated allocations, cutting staff, unpaid holidays or furloughs, retirement, renting unused space, reducing capital assets, or adjusting employee compensation and benefits.

“Everything on this page is something we should pursue and look at, but we need items that we have to have action on immediately,” she said. “There has to be a decision made by November 30. We have to balance our budget.”

“My recommendation is to reduce, transfer or eliminate non-mandated allocations, reduce workforce or unpaid holidays or unpaid days," she said.

The board was unable to discuss the first option because of incomplete information on the non-mandated positions.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said these were all things the board had discussed over the last several weeks.

“I don’t feel like we’re making any progress. I thought today we were going to go down a list of partner agencies and make additional cuts and recommendation to Ms. Miller.”

Van Ness said the board had been in agreement last week in favor of making the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are currently paid holidays, into unpaid holidays for 2009. This would reportedly save the county about $210,000 to put towards the general fund for 2010.

“Now I understand that has changed and that is not an option on the table and we’re going to continue assuming everything’s rosy as we move into 2010,” said Van Ness.

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt said he agreed with Van Ness’s frustration at having to make this decision at this point in the calendar.

“I do believe because the board has been placed in a reactionary mode,” said Nesbitt. “In the heart of the holidays, to ask our employees to give us days they’re already anticipating being paid for this calendar year throws us into a put-out-the-fire situation versus going ahead and doing what we need to do as a leadership team.”

Chairman Richard Oden said he was also not in favor of making those days unpaid holidays, adding that he felt the board was not in a reactionary mode but was “dealing with the tide as the tide comes in from various sources.”

“Mr. Chairman, I respectfully disagree,” said Nesbitt. “We’ve had since summer of this year, under your leadership, an opportunity to go back and look department by department. That’s the role you sit in as a day-to-day operator.”

Oden replied, “I have to disagree with you in attacking our directors publically like that.”

“I’m not attacking the directors,” said Nesbitt. “I’m addressing you, I want to make that clear.”

The board agreed to meet again in a public work session on Wednesday, 10 a.m., at the Assembly Hall, 901 Main Street, to further discuss budget cuts. Tax Assessor Lamar Sims will be at the meeting to talk about property assessments as well. Also on the agenda are funding of outside agencies and unpaid holidays for employees.