06/02/08 — Commission will eye budget plan, including job cuts, hours change

View Archive

Commission will eye budget plan, including job cuts, hours change

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 2, 2008 1:48 PM

A year-long job freeze, the elimination of 20-30 job positions and a change in operating hours for some county offices are among the proposals in Wayne County's $162 million budget draft.

The budget proposal will be presented to county commissioners during their Tuesday morning session. The board also is expected to schedule a series of budget work sessions.

A public hearing on the budget will be held during the board's June 17 session.

County Manager Lee Smith said there probably will be "little actual discussion" about budget particulars on Tuesday since commissioners have just gotten the budget to study.

The budget, which does not include any tax increase, reflects a 2.6 decrease from the current year's budget of $166 million.

"A lot (of the decrease) can be based on revenues slowing," Smith said.

A good chunk of that can be traced to the state's Medicaid savings plan. The state's action is expected to cost the county about $2.2 million in sales tax revenues.

Adding insult to injury is the state shifting the total cost for foster child care to the county. That will add between $300,000 to $400,000 that the county will have to make up. In the past, the state paid 100 percent of the cost, Smith said.

It would require a 5-cent hike in the property tax rate to recoup funds lost because of those two changes, Smith said.

Further complicating the revenue-stream picture is that Smith has estimated only about a 1 percent increase in growth.

Smith said he "hopes" to eliminate between 20-30 county job positions, adding to the 127 that have been done away with over the past four years. He said he is hopeful the job freeze will be made a "year-long" one.

"As people retire, we just don't replace them and see how it goes -- how productivity goes," he said.

Smith called that proposal one of the "bold moves" that he hopes the county will follow through on.

Another of those "bold moves" will be changing the hours of operation for some county offices to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. four days a week. Such a move, Smith said, will provide three benefits.

"It will reduce energy costs, and that is one of our highest costs," he said.

Secondly, it will be more convenient for the county's working residents, Smith said. They will be able to visit the office prior to going to work, or after getting off of work, he added.

Thirdly, it will benefit county employees, he said.

Smith said the move would reduce the number of hours and distance that employees must drive each week. It would reduce commuting mileage by 20 percent and over the course of the month save employees a tank of gas -- a real benefit in view of gas prices that probably will continue the climb towards $5 per gallon, he said.

"We are asking everybody to tighten their belts," he said.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday commissioners will tour the Paramount Theatre at 10:30 a.m. and consider a proposed amendment to the county zoning ordinance and map concerning the height overlays for the county's airports. The amendment would govern development and the height of structures in the overlay zones

A briefing session for commissioners will start at 8 a.m. followed by the meeting at 9 a.m.