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County faces budget crunch

POSTED: August 25, 2014 1:13 p.m.

Barrow County officials are dealing with low pay that’s handcuffing some departments from keeping employees while also not being able to fill some vacant positions.

The Barrow County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Services are among the departments that are forced to use part-time employees and overtime to provide services because of high turnaround due to pay. Also, not being able to hire new employees or fill some vacant positions was discussed by Barrow leaders at last week’s budget workshop.

Commissioner Joe Goodman asked at last week’s budget workshop for some clarity on why some positions are being eliminated “especially from some departments that are struggling to take care of things that are part of their normal daily operation.”

The proposed budget also includes eliminating four vacant positions in Human Resources, Animal Control, the Tax Assessors Office and Building & Grounds. That budget also does not include hiring new employees outside of some vacant department head positions.

County Manager Randall Dowling said the county is in a tough situation.

“Our goal is to put 5 lbs of dirt in a 5 lbs bag,” he said. “We’ve put 10 lbs of dirt in a 5 lbs bag. We eliminated every new requested position, every new salary increase and vacant position that in our opinion we could do without.”

One of the budget requests from Emergency Services Interim Director John Skinner was to hire sixfirefighters, but the county could not afford the positions, Dowling said.

EMS continues to struggle to keep employees long-term.  Recently two employees left for a nearby jurisdiction where they are making $4-5 more per hour, he said.

“We have to then compensate with overtime and part-time (employees),” Dowling said. “It’s a revolving door. The problem is the low salary and benefits cannot keep full-time people.”

Sheriff Jud Smith has also spoken about problems he’s had with losing deputies and other employees because of pay.

His department has been hampered by overtime costs because of a lack of staffing at the jail. Smith asked for an 8 percent salary increase for the 2015 budget, but the request was not included in the proposed budget.

In 2008, commissioners said they would add 24 positions for the detention center, but a hiring freeze was enacted shortly thereafter due to the recession. Smith told the Barrow County News in May properly staffing the jail would require 13-14 more employees.

Earlier this year he had to request an additional $30,000 for overtime in part due to a lack of staffing in the jail.



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1 comment
Hmmm: August 26, 2014 3:18 p.m.

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." Ronald Reagan

Maybe if the county spent my money (Taxes) protecting me (Public Safety, EMS, Fire and Sheriff) rather then burdening individuals and commerce they would not such a hard job convincing everyone about what they stand for...



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