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Vote on county budget looms
Latest plan trims three more jobs
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Forsyth County News
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The Forsyth County commission could vote Thursday on a budget for 2009 that includes 5 percent cuts for all departments and the elimination of 26 jobs. The meeting is set for 5 p.m. at the county administration building in downtown Cumming.

Cuts could get deeper yet for Forsyth County.

Commissioners are eyeing 5 percent across-the-board budget cuts as well as the elimination of 26 county positions, three more than projected in meetings last week.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas told the commission Tuesday that a 5 percent countywide slash for all departments, including fire and safety, would save about $2.6 million. Cutting 26 jobs would equal about $1.22 million in savings.

Of those jobs in jeopardy are 21 positions in planning and development, three in engineering and two in code enforcement.

Any vacant county jobs would stay unfilled, saving about $700,000.

No action was taken Tuesday, but a decision could come at today's public hearing to balance a 2009 budget currently projected at $84.1 million, down from last week's estimated $91 million.

"This is one of those good news-bad news things," Commissioner David Richard said. "The good news is, we haven't adopted a budget earlier than this because the bad news in the economy keeps piling on."

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse agreed on the dynamic nature of the times.

"In this economy, things are changing, not by the month or by the week, but hour by hour," Laughinghouse said Wednesday, "We do the best we can with the information we've got."

The first public hearing on the proposed budget changes filled the commissioners' meeting room Dec. 4, mainly with sheriff's office employees.

They are upset over a potential nix on next year's cost-of-living and merit raises, which could save the county $2.45 million and $1.7 million each.

Thomas said a drop in sales tax revenues is expected over the last three months of 2008. Other revenues not expected to meet previous forecasts include licenses and permit fees, investment income, local insurance premium tax and alcohol excise tax.

The general fund balance is expected to be about $23.8 million by Dec. 31. That's after a $3 million drop in revenues, $2.5 million payment to the city of Cumming for infrastructure improvements and $4.3 million to the state Department of Transportation for McGinnis Ferry right of way.

The county's financial policy requires that 25 percent of the budget remain for reserves. The $23.8 million the county could start the year with would equal about 28 percent of the proposed 2009 budget, if approved.

Thomas also discussed funding for nonprofit agencies, which could decrease by $64,000.