Thirteen positions axed in county effort to bring budget under control

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

BERRYVILLE ---- Some county employees will lose their jobs as a result of financial woes experienced by the county but those remaining will continue to work a five-day week with full pay.

The Carroll County Quorum Court budget committee considered initiating a four-day work week, which effectively would have cut salaries by 20 percent, following the defeat of a one-cent sales tax intended to support the county's ailing general fund.

That measure would have reduced some clerk salaries from $17,000 annually to $13,600, an average jailer's salary from $18,000 to $14,500 and beginning deputies from $19,500 to $15,600.

Instead, the budget committee decided to eliminate 13 positions when it met last Thursday, the bulk being vacancies that won't be filled.

Those include the airport manager's position, three in the sheriff's office, one at the jail, one in the judge's office, and four in the road department.

There will be layoffs. A full-time position in the road department will be eliminated, said County Judge Ed Robertson, and replaced with a part-time position.

Also, a re-addressal coordinator in the new 911 office will be laid off, along with others in that same office.

"In the 911 office, we decided to lay off one," said Robertson, "and we are going to eliminate a dispatcher job after Jan. 1, 2004."

Robertson said the person holding the dispatcher position has been establishing procedures and helping with mapping while waiting for 911 to begin operations.

"We're eliminating the positions since 911 is not up yet," Robertson explained.

Also affected is Tom Duggar, who was hired for 911 dispatch and to serve as coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

Robertson said Duggar's full-time position was eliminated. Instead he'll be working one day a week for the county as OEM coordinator.

Employee cutbacks, coupled with departmental contributions to the general fund, trimmed the county's annual budget by $300,000, said Robertson.

He also noted that there is no money remaining in the county general fund for maintenance and repairs.

"If anything breaks, there is no money to fix it," he said.

Justice of the Peace Eva Reeve agreed.

"We're up to the hilt on the budget. There are no reserves. No place to go," she said. "If there is any catastrophe, we'll have to lay off more. There is no place to go."

Reeve said efforts made by the budget committee did trim the budget to within 10 percent of projected revenues, as required by state law.

She said it will be a bare-bones budget.

"We cut out things that are going to hurt us, like building maintenance," she said. "We have structures that need work. All the money for new cars for the Sheriff's Office was eliminated. They'll make do because they have to, but that means there won't be as many patrols out there."

Reeve said anyone can manage when there's plenty of money to work with.

"We're going to have to be very smart and very effective, all of us," she said. "That's not a bad thing. The bad thing is ---- we needed the tax."

According to Reeve, an upswing in the economy won't help the situation.

"There won't be much effect on the general fund," she said. "We'll only be more and more behind.

"We have a great bunch of elected officials and we'll do it and get better and better at it," she continued. "But, we have to get our reserves back. We barely have enough to keep the county running. The reserves have to be replaced."

Reeve said the public's perception that jail monies will bail the county out of it's difficulties once the jail is complete are false.

"Some money will be freed up out of the jail tax," she said, "but not enough. We will have to come back with a tax. The county will have to face this issue again. We are the only county of our size and classification that doesn't have a sales tax to support the general fund."

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