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Budget cuts should target least essential county jobs
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Forsyth County News
In their ongoing effort to bring the county’s budget back into the black, county commissioners are preparing for another round of job reductions.

Last year the county cut 26 jobs off its payroll to reduce expenses. This year, commissioners are considering reducing staffing by between 32 and 100 employees.

That such action is being considered comes as no surprise. Governments at every level across the nation are feeling the pinch of bad economic times. It is a perverse reality that in such times the flow of tax money into government accounts slows at the same time that the demand for certain government services increases.

Dwindling tax dollars are not the only cause of the county’s current economic woes — some shoddy accounting in years past apparently has contributed to the problem as well.

Having said they will not raise taxes in order to increase revenues, commissioners face the task of cutting expenses. As private business owners are well aware, one significant area in which expense cuts can be quickly realized at the bottom line is in payroll and personnel, leading to the commission’s decision to trim employees from the county’s staff of approximately 1,400.

The challenge before commissioners is deciding where and how to make those cuts.

What commissioners should not do is try to equalize the expense reductions across all county departments.

Too often, government leaders approach the necessity of reducing expenditures by declaring that all departments will reduce expenses, or staffing, by a certain percentage.

With an operational dynamic as diverse as that of the county government — where services provided range from enforcing the law to cutting the grass — all departments cannot be expected to share equally in staff reductions.

Simply put, some positions are more essential to the operation of the county government than others.

As they contemplate the fate of 2-7 percent of the county’s workforce, commissioners have to decide what should be the absolute core functions of the government they oversee, and make sure that the positions required to fulfill the public’s needs in those priority areas continue to be met.

The key to the equation is the government’s ability to meet the public’s needs. As callous as it may seem, the role of the government is to serve the public, not provide job security in hard times for employees whose role may not be essential to government service.

If they honestly evaluate each county position in terms of whether it is essential to the basic functions of the county government, commissioners will come closer to making intelligent expense cuts rather than wielding the payroll ax willy-nilly.

In times like these, it is sometimes the guy in coveralls on the riding lawnmower who provides a service more immediately necessary that the bureaucrat in the three-piece suit sitting behind the executive desk.

Commissioners are expected to make a decision on personnel cuts Sept. 8. Let them know what you think should be the core function of the county government.