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County sheds 54 jobs
Cuts to ease budget woes
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Forsyth County News
The hard realities of the recession hit home last week as 30 Forsyth County government employees lost their jobs.

The positions were cut to offset the 2009 budget deficit of $6.2 million and aid projected 2010 figures, which are deeper in the red.

Also eliminated were 24 unfilled, vacant positions.

The cuts had been expected since last month, when the Forsyth County commission gave County Manager Doug Derrer the authority to slash $500,000 in staffed positions.

Derrer said in a statement that the “most recent round of staff reductions was a direct result of the failing economy” and declining revenues.

“Considering that approximately 70 percent of the general fund budget is comprised of salaries and benefits and the fact that substantial cuts to the remainder of the budget had already been made, it became necessary to reduce staff to balance the 2009 budget and develop the 2010 budget,” Derrer said.

“In order to reduce the budget to a manageable figure, the staff reductions could not be delayed ... Every attempt was made to impact staff as little as possible.”

The tax assessor’s office lost more staff, eight positions, than any other department.

Tax Assessor Mary Kirkpatrick was charged with the task of making cuts, which dropped her department from 37 employees to 29. She said her department was affected the most because “things have slowed, like new construction.”

“There have probably been some positions that were not as busy as they were,” Kirkpatrick said.

Most of the department’s budget, she said, was “personnel cost and with the county commissioners asking everyone to cut, the only place I had really left to cut was in personnel.”

Kirkpatrick said delivering the bad news was “a tough thing to do.”

“I was not very happy with it,” she said. “Of course, no one is. Times are bad, and you don’t want to have to send someone home.”

Other departments that had to dismiss employees last week included planning and development, which lost six workers, and parks and recreation. Also affected were the tax commissioner’s office, commercial services, solid waste, water, GIS, fleet services and facilities management.

Derrer said demands on some departments have declined while increasing on others.

“When you have to cut as deeply as we have over the past 18 months, there is a direct correlation between staff reductions and service delivery,” he said. “Departments are making adjustments while making every attempt to maintain the high level of service the public has come to expect.”

The county shed 26 employees in 2008 as a result of a deficit.

Pat Carson, personnel services director, said staff who lost their jobs last week will be eligible for unemployment and have health care benefits through the end of the month. They will not receive severance pay.

In the meantime, the county’s some 1,350 remaining employees are making also sacrifices.

In August, the county commission voted to make most of the holidays left in 2009 unpaid for those not scheduled to work.

The measure is projected to save $764,250 this year, according to Carson.

The commission, whose pay will also be docked during holidays, has taken other measures to chip away at the budget deficit.

Commissioners voted to use funds from capital projects, vehicle transfer and contingency savings to help offset the financial gap.

The projected budget shortfall for 2010 is $14 million.

Commissioners voted Aug. 19 to raise some employee costs associated with health care next year.

In July, they voted down a tax hike, which would have put a $5.7 million dent in the budget gap.

While making the “necessary adjustments” to balance the 2009 budget, Derrer said it will be “equally challenging to develop and manage the 2010 budget.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the 2011 budget,” he said. “However, the after-effects of the failing economy may be felt by many, including local and state government, for years to come.”