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Officials eye 2010 deficit
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Forsyth County News
Employee furloughs, cutting services and using reserves were among the options Forsyth County commissioners discussed for balancing next year’s budget.

During a work session Wednesday, Finance Director Bill Thomas explained the proposed budget, with expenditures at $80.7 million and revenues at $78 million, shows about a $2.7 million deficit.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse asked department heads to “think outside the box.”

“Y’all are the experts. And I hate to say this, but y’all get paid the big bucks to help us out on this,” Laughinghouse said. “Come up with ideas, just realize that they may not always be popular and it may be something you never even thought about.”

In his presentation, Thomas pointed out that the proposed expenditures include cuts that have not been identified.

Those reductions include $3 million from the sheriff’s office, $100,000 from voter registration and $210,800 from the tax commissioner’s office, as well as cuts from public works, parks and recreation and library system.

Commissioner Jim Harrell suggested taking money out of the county’s reserve funds.

“I may be in the minority on this, I often am on some of these things, but my view is the reason agencies want you to have a reserves is because occasionally you have hard times,” Harrell said.

“Well folks, we’re having some hard financial times and I don’t have a problem in addressing what’s left because I think we’ve cut deeply here with reserves for next year.”

To that, Laughi-nghouse said the reserve funds “aren’t designed this year to cover next year’s budget shortfall.”

Commissioner Brian Tam also cautioned against using reserves for fear that funds wouldn’t be available in the event of emergencies such as road shifts or water pipe breaks.

County employees took a hit this year when 2009 budget woes led to layoffs and unpaid holidays.

Commissioner Patrick Bell took issue with the idea of instituting furloughs next year and questioned whether the county should continue providing non-mandated services.

“At some point in time our employees can’t really absorb much more and still be able to live,” Bell said.

“And we can’t continue pushing that money down on them so that we can then continue to provide services again that aren’t always mandated, that are not in the interest of public health, safety and welfare that we’re required to provide.”

County Manager Doug Derrer noted that cutting services could directly affect staff levels.

The board agreed to revisit the matter at a work session next week. A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Dec. 3.

The board could adopt the budget Dec. 17.