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County may hire workers in 2014
Development, new facilities drive need
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Forsyth County News

New jobs appear to be on the horizon for Forsyth County government in 2014, as indicated by early budget projections.

The finance committee met Friday to discuss the preliminary budget outlook in anticipation of meetings with department heads next week and county offices starting May 13.

Finance Director David Gruen said several have requested new positions, and some jobs could be recommended for approval based on department increases in activity and fees.

It’s highly unlikely that all those requests will be granted, Gruen said.

The 29 new jobs and reclassifications for existing services in the general fund alone would cost about $1.7 million.

Forsyth currently employs 1,194 people, but that number would increase to 1,370 if all requested positions were approved, said Pat Carson, county personnel services director.

By comparison, the county had 1,298 employees in 2008 prior to two rounds of layoffs based on the economic downturn, Carson said.

County Manager Doug Derrer said Forsyth has so far been able to provide the same level of service with those cuts.

“But now with the growth increasing and permits up, it’s time to revisit this,” Derrer said.

The returned activity to the planning department has led to requests for several new positions, Gruen said, but with that increased demand also comes a projection of an $800,000 increase in revenue from fees.

That funding could cover or defray the cost of adding staff and updating software, he said.

The department lost 27 full-time positions in layoffs in 2008-09, Carson said, compared to the current staff total of 33.

New county facilities may also require an increase in staff.

The county animal shelter, scheduled to open in January, is expected to require hiring new employees, Gruen said.

The cost to operate the shelter, he said, could be an increase from the county’s current arrangement of contracting out the service to a private entity for $480,000.

And though the new jail and courthouse won’t open until 2015, Sheriff Duane Piper likely will need to hire and train workers by the end of 2014, Gruen said.

“With those new items it’s going to be a real challenge in 2014 and 2015, when the full jail and courthouse operations come on,” he said. “A lot of it is related to the growth and construction.”

Revenue projections help support that picture and improve the county’s outlook.

The tax digest is estimated to increase by 2 percent in 2014, or about $750,000, but those totals won’t be known until July.

The local option sales tax, or LOST, revenue is anticipated to increase by about $1.5 million, or nearly 5.8 percent, Gruen said.

Overall, the general fund revenue is projected to increase $4.5 million over that of 2013, or a 5 percent increase, he said.

Aside from the expenses for new buildings and jobs, some other expenses will still put pressure on the budget, including health care, vehicle replacements and election-year costs.