Budget proposal would shave county employees' pay; Offices would close early on Wednesdays

Looking to span a million-dollar gap in Butts County's 2010-2011 spending plan, county commissioners are expected to consider a proposed budget later this month that includes recommendations to close county offices at 1 p.m., on Wednesdays beginning this fall, and reduce the number of paid holidays public safety workers can take.

County officials are trying to fill the distance between expected expenditures of $18.73 million and revenues of $17.69 million for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.

At a workshop meeting on Thursday, County Administrator Alan E. White asked commissioners to consider nearly $300,000 in salary reductions for the county's 261 employees. The savings, he said, would come in the form of fewer hours for many of the county's workers.

Under the proposal, which is expected to be included in a budget draft scheduled to be presented May 24, county workers other than public safety personnel would take a 5.97 percent pay cut spread out over the course of the fiscal year, and begin closing county offices at 1 p.m., on Wednesdays, beginning in October.

White said roughly 40 percent of the county's salary expenditures go to workers other than those who work in public safety, and that the reduction would save $183,962.

Reducing the number of paid holidays that public safety personnel can take from 10 to two would save $108,122, according to estimates provided to commissioners. Under the plan, which would essentially eliminate the overtime pay those workers earn while working on holidays, salaries would be cut by 2.66 percent for those workers.

"I just don't think I can ask anybody to cut any more than what we're asking them to cut," White said. "We're going to give them [employees] time off. That's the best we can do, and everybody takes it on the chin."

The budget recommendations also include freezing the amount the county pays in employee health insurance premiums, meaning workers would pick up the difference should there be an increase this year.

In all, the savings achieved through the salary reductions in the budget proposal total $314,428, including $22,000 in payroll tax savings.

County officials anticipate a roughly $500,000 dip in property tax revenues, and an overall budget hole of $1.05 million.

White said that in addition to the savings from salary cuts, the county could tap its roughly $4.5 million reserve fund for about $700,000 to balance the budget.

Drawing that fund down, he said, would leave the county with about $3.8 million in reserve, a little more than double the county's monthly operating expenses.

Butts County Commission Chairman Mitch McEwen said some of the area's older residents he's talked to wouldn't object to county offices closing early on Wednesdays. "It used to be that everybody closed on Wednesday," he said. "It's kind of like a step back in time for them ... they can adjust to that. Now, the younger generation that‘s moved in that don't have a clue about the old days and the Wednesday closings, they may not can relate as much. But I don't think it's a bad thing at all and I'll support that 100 percent."

The proposed reductions in spending discussed Thursday do not include staff reductions, and county officials don't anticipate raising the millage rate.

Next year's proposed expenditures of $18.73 million are down about $500,000 from fiscal 2010's amended budget of $19.24 million.

The May 24 budget meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., at the Butts County Administration Building, 625 West Third St., Jackson.