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Henry layoffs attributed to economic downturn

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Twenty people are out of jobs today.

Henry County officials said a lack of economic activity has resulted in a loss of license, tax and permit revenues, which led the board of commissioners to scale back the county's work force.

The layoffs are the latest in several efforts by governments in Henry to balance their budgets. In August, the McDonough City Council laid off eight city employees, in order to save during the city's economic hardships.

Just last week, Henry County committed to a hiring freeze, and some county employees, with retirement benefits, were encouraged to exercise their retirement options.

Officials believed the county would save some money by eliminating positions through attrition and absorption into some departments, but said that, even so, it was necessary to eliminate jobs in several departments.

It meant a workforce reduction of 20 people, an unprecedented number of lay-offs for Henry County. The layoffs, however, are expected to contribute to saving the county nearly $1.8 million.

"We recognize that these are very difficult times for both our community and the nation," said Henry County Manager Rob Magnaghi. "The current reduction in workforce, and other cost-saving measures, have gone a long way in stabilizing potential deficits and seeing us through the remainder of this year's budget, while also putting us in a better position as we begin preparing for the upcoming fiscal year."

The positions selected were in the county's human resources, grants administration, planning and zoning, transportation and building departments.

Magnaghi said that eliminating the positions will not affect day-to-day services.

In instances where the department director's position was eliminated - as is the case for the human resources, transportation and building departments - the applicable upper-level manager will assume the additional responsibilities.

"We hope that any future changes will not be nearly as dramatic as what has occurred to date," Magnaghi said. "Henry County is blessed with a multitude of quality workers, and together, we will transition through these challenges. I am convinced that we will continue to operate without compromising our responsibility and quality of service to the public."

Front-line emergency and public safety personnel were not affected by the reduction in force. And the responsibilities of the county attorney will be taken over by the county's staff attorney, LaTonya Wiley. The county's attorney, Patrick Jaugstetter, resigned earlier this year, leaving the position open.

The attorney's administrative assistant position will also be eliminated. Cases requiring litigation will be contracted out on an as-needed basis.

"In the days and weeks ahead, the county will continue to look for additional ways to improve efficiency in its organizational structure by realigning job responsibilities and combining some positions," said County Spokeswoman Julie Hoover-Ernst.

"Management will also be reviewing the county's operating budget to assess ways in which expenditures might be reduced and additional savings might be realized, all without adversely impacting services for citizens."