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Henry trims $9.8 million from county budget

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Henry County commissioners have adopted a fiscal year 2011 budget of $116.84 million, reflecting a $9.8 million cut from what was budgeted last year.

The smaller budget includes four days of employee furloughs, plus departmental budget cuts.

The county's fiscal-year budget for last year was $126.68 million.

"As you can see, this is a decrease from last year's budget from $126 million to $116 million," said Henry County Financial Services Director Mike Bush. "It's right at a $10 million reduction in our revenues and our expenditures for this year's budget."

The commissioners unanimously approved the fiscal 2011 budget during a special-called meeting Friday, at the Henry County Administration Building in McDonough. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

The financial savings from the four-day furloughs has been incorporated into the 2011 budget, Bush said after the meeting. Officials are waiting for a response from each department, "before we officially send out a memo stating what days are going to be furloughed," Bush added.

Some county employees were supportive of the furlough action.

"I think that we are very lucky, with this day and time, [and] the economy the way it is," said Marilyn Fuller, office manager for the Henry County Human Resources Department. She said four days without pay is better than unemployment.

"I was expecting a lot more than that. I'm thankful to have a job," Fuller said.

Jack Oakman, a lieutenant in the Henry County Sheriff's Office, echoed similar sentiments.

"I came out of the private sector, and frankly, with economic times like this, we're lucky," Oakman said. "My opinion is, we're lucky there's only four furlough days."

Willie Byrd, technology services server administrator for the county, was also upbeat.

"I think in today's economy, the four furlough days is more than reasonable, especially for the type of services that we offer," he said.

Byrd said economic times are tough nationally, and that other state and county governments are also adjusting their budgets. "There are going to be other industries besides ours that are going to have to cut back," he added.

The new budget also reflects cuts in funding to several agencies and departments, Bush told commissioners.

During fiscal 2011, Connecting Henry will receive $84,068 from the county, a decrease from the $97,332 the agency received during fiscal 2010.

The Henry County Extension Service will receive $252,849 from the county, compared to the $266,690 it received this year.

Life Management Solutions will receive $80,696 from the county next fiscal year, compared to $160,418 the agency received this year.

"This budget is about what it was five years ago," said District II Commissioner Monroe Roark. "Actually, it's about half a million dollars less than the 2005-2006 budget. I wanted to point it out that obviously, after all the hard work all these departments did, I think that [it] is significant that 30,000 more people moved into the county, and we're operating on the same amount of money that we did five years ago."

The 2005-2006 county budget was $117.42 million, and the county's population during that time was 171,350, according to figures Roark quoted to commissioners. Henry County's 2010 population is approximately 200,000, according to his figures.