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Furlough days for county appear certain

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The Henry County Board of Commissioners' fiscal year 2011 budget is expected to reflect an across-the-board furlough of four days for all county employees.

How the process will work, is scheduled to be decided today, when the Henry County Board of Commissioners meets to adopt the new budget.

"If we did not have those four furlough days, we would not have a balanced budget; we would have to use fund balance," said Henry County Financial Services Director Mike Bush. He said the furloughs days are projected to save $1,137,001.

The county's finance officer said the furlough days will mean a cut of .015385 percent (less than one percent) of the salary of a 40-hour a week employee. The issue was discussed Thursday during a special called meeting at the County Administration building in McDonough, to examine next year's proposed county budget. Instead of scheduling all furlough days consecutively, Bush said, the county will spread the days out.

He explained that specific dates for the days off will not be determined until the county receives feedback from all departments. While most departments will have the furlough days selected for them, public safety employees -- because of their work schedules -- will be allowed to determine what days off they will have, Bush explained.

"We have made the preliminary decision, and have asked, 'Are there problems with it?' -- to get the departments to come back [to us]," Bush said. "The courts were trying their best to match those days, so that when we're closed, the courts would be closed. We are to the point to where we will have to bring that back to the board," he said. "The board has to come back and let us know what we're going to do. Originally, we talked about four days in a row, now it's four individual days throughout the year," Bush said.

The FY 2011 budget is scheduled to be adopted during a special called commission meeting today, which begins at 9 a.m., in the County Administration Building in McDonough. Bush told the commissioners during Thursday's meeting that he reviewed the furlough process for fire personnel, to ensure an equal proportion of time was taken from their work schedules, compared to other county departments.

A decision on the specific dates for the county employees' furlough days is expected to be made soon, said County Manager James "Butch" Sanders. "We've got to do it before the start of the fiscal year," he said, after the meeting. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Brad Johnson, division chief for the Henry County Fire Department, also attended the meeting.

Johnson said afterward that four furlough days for the 270-employee fire department will be staggered among the department's employees, so as to ensure enough personnel will be available in case of emergencies. To avoid having his employees lose too much money out of their paychecks, Johnson said the department will schedule the days off on non-overtime pay periods.

"They have 24 hours as their regular shift," said Johnson. "They'll have two 24-hour furlough days per year, when they don't have their overtime cycle. We will not do their furlough day on that day. It's like a double-whammy ... of pay they would lose."