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Board wrestles with shortfall
Officials dont see clear, easy answer
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Forsyth County News
Discussion about Forsyth County’s looming 2010 budget deficit resumed Tuesday, with county officials exploring what they say are some tough options.

Commissioner Brian Tam expressed frustration over the task, which could include a combination of furloughs, job cuts, tax increases and a reduction of financial reserves.

“There’s no most popular choice on this,” said Tam of resolving the projected $7 million shortfall. “There’s no clear, easy answer here.”

Tam suggested County Manager Doug Derrer poll employees on the proposed options, which range from one-day-a-month furloughs and unpaid holidays to employee health care cuts.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas said unpaid holidays are “probably a little harsher sounding than furloughs,” but the seven remaining holidays could save the county $1.3 million this year and $1.9 million in the $90.5 million budget for 2010.

Unpaid holidays could be used in lieu of furloughs, which Thomas said would generate about $1.7 million savings for the 2010 budget.

Commissioner Patrick Bell said furloughs, unpaid holidays and staff cuts “put the entire burden on our staff.”

He urged the commission to consider raising the millage rate, “which spreads [the burden] across the entire population, versus just those that work here.”

The millage increase proposed by Thomas would raise the county maintenance and operations levy by 0.85 mills, bringing the mill rate to 4.684 mills.

A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

Commissioner Jim Harrell said they could achieve a balanced budget without raising the millage rate.

“For me, that’s what you set [reserves] aside for, and I’m probably the lone ranger on that one, but it would solve part of this problem by taking $2 to $3 million out of the general fund,” Harrell said.

Further options for offsetting the potential deficit include staffing cuts totaling up to 98 positions, which could save the county $3.5 million.
Derrer said some of the positions are vacant, while others are not.

To determine “core staffing levels,” the county is consulting a staff utilization study performed by an outside agency. The study has not been made public.

Any of the cost-cutting options discussed could be used alone or in some combination.

Another millage rate increase the commission is considering could replace aging fire department equipment and vehicles.

To pay for $650,00 per year worth of needed improvements for the department, commissioners would need to adopt a mill rate increase of .076 mills. That would bring the fire fund millage rate, which is separate from the maintenance and operations levy, to 1.841.

Commissioners likely will discuss changes in the fire rate and the maintenance and operations levy at a work session June 30.

Public hearings on the millage rates are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. July 14 and 6:30 p.m. July 30. The rates could be set July 30.

A final version of the 2010 budget could be approved at a public hearing Dec. 3.

E-mail Frank Reddy at