Barrow County’s new commission chairman Danny Yearwood will propose cutting county employee hours to 37.5 per week and one unpaid furlough day per month in an effort to cut county spending during the economic downturn.
The proposed cuts would reduce salaries across the board by 9.8 percent, Yearwood said. He said the cutbacks will be across-the-board and will affect everyone from “top to bottom.”
Yearwood announced his cost-cutting proposal to county employees at a meeting Wednesday morning. He said he plans to formally take the proposal to the full board of commissioners at the Jan. 13 BOC meeting. Commissioners Larry Joe Wilburn and Eva Elder also attended Wednesday’s meeting.
The BOC will also be asked to whether to open county offices a half-hour later at 8:30 a.m., he said.
Yearwood appealed to county employees to approach this tough economic time as a team and to offer suggestions they have for how to cut costs or increase income.
He explained to the 150 employees gathered for the first of three staff meetings on Wednesday how the downturn in the nation’s economy is affecting the county’s financial picture. He said the county has $13.6 million in cash for operating expenses, but the total weekly expenses amount to $1.5 million. More than half of that cost is for salaries and benefits.
The total reserves, including undesignated cash and account payables, is about $6.7 million. The majority of the liquid reserves are in a $2.7 million certificate of deposit.
“What I don’t want to do is to go into that reserve,” Yearwood said. “If we go into it, we can’t put it back. We’ve got to make sure Barrow County is protected. That’s our job. That’s the reason we have a job – because of Barrow County.”
Yearwood also read a two-page list of financial challenges the county is facing. He said the county has $118 million in debt and is facing
shortfalls in several revenue streams:
• Local Option sales tax collections that are used for operating expenses are expected to fall $1.7 million short of the budget.
• Special Purpose Local Sales Tax collections to pay for capital expenses were down 24% in December.
• Building permit revenues will be about $392,000 below budget.
• Interest income will be about $250,000 below budget.
• Delinquent property tax collections as of Jan. 5 were $1.9 million.
• Solid waste tipping fees will be about $350,000 below budget.
• Other revenue losses are expected to amount to more than $600,000.
Yearwood told the employees that the 9.8 percent cuts he is asking everyone to take would pay the salaries of 50 current employees.
“It’s up to you now,” he said. “I hope you will work with us.”
While regretful for the employees and families, at least Chairman Yearwood is demonstrating leadership that has been sorely missing in Barrow County government. I hope the county employees will take a moment and provide Yearwood with a vote of confidence by expressing their understanding of the situation and how they will find even more ways to cut expenses and increase revenues.