County looking to trim operations

By Justin Boron

A study of the Clayton County government's organizational structure and its efficiency will determine where it can streamline its operations, if not reduce the size of them altogether, county officials say.

A consultant at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government of the University of Georgia admits the study can be seen as a precursor to personnel reductions, even layoffs in the government's many departments, but he said job cuts aren't necessarily a sure thing.

Harry Hayes, the manager of local government programs with the Institute of Government, said often times county governments can benefit from the consolidation of services in which there are redundancies in employment that need to be addressed.

But he said looking for places to lay off employees is not the intent of the study.

The $35,000 assessment will include interviews with department heads and comparison studies to other county governments comparable in size to his one, Hayes said.

County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said he anticipates the study will get the taxpayers more bang for their buck.

One of his initiatives he said he hopes the study will lead to is digital storage of the county's documents.

Efficiency studies of local government are not all that uncommon in Georgia, said Mike Stewart, the assistant director of administration and financial services at the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

"It's just good business sense to do something like that," he said. "The private sector does it all the time."

Stewart said the inevitable truth about government is that it can always be run better.

"Occasionally, you kind of need to step back and look at it from another perspective," he said.

But like efficiency experts in the private sector, they can signal job losses, Stewart said.

County Commissioner Wole Ralph said he recognizes this possibility and hopes that any personnel reductions can be done through retirements and not layoffs.

"There's going to be a lot of sensitivity around that issue," he said.