Columbia County considers list of cuts

Columbia County commissioners suspect they might lose about $1.45 million in revenue this year because of Gov. Sonny Perdue's nixing the Homestead Tax Relief Grant.

To prepare for that possibility, and to secure an option besides dipping in a reserve fund, commissioners ordered county department heads to develop a plan for cutting 2.61 percent from their budgets. The proposed cuts, likely in the form of hiring freezes, deferred capital purchases and program eliminations, are to be delivered to the Administrator's Office by Oct. 6 and the commission will review the cuts at an Oct. 21 meeting.

Many department heads already submitted a preliminary list of possible budget cuts:

PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT

- Postpone filling a managerial position

- Introduce a sliding fee schedule for plats

WATER UTILITY

- Freeze all capital purchases

MANAGEMENT SERVICES

- Introduce a hiring freeze

- Defer the purchase of new vehicles and heavy equipment

- Eliminate non-emergency overtime work

- Restrict employees from taking county vehicles home

BUILDING, COMMERCIAL AND ENGINEERING SERVICES

- Hiring freeze

- Defer equipment purchases

- Cut back purchase of office supplies

- Cut certification compensation bonuses

- Possibly outsource some Internet technology services

- Cut training budgets, travel

CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE SERVICES

- Reduce HVAC contract

- Reduce mowing contract

COMMUNITY AND LEISURE SERVICES

- Close the Columbia County Library on Sundays. Before the March 2006 opening of the main branch on Evans Town Center Boulevard, officials had considered not opening on Sundays. Library Director Christina Rice said there was enough demand to justify the hours -- 2-5 p.m. -- and that Sunday is one of the most popular days.

- Freeze a library administrative specialist position

- Freeze a park services position

- Defer purchase of a truck for recreation department

- Defer minor property purchases

EMERGENCY SERVICES

- An initial list called for the elimination of the Senior Center program, but officials have decided to save the center.

ADMINISTRATOR'S OFFICE

- Reduce hours of operation for non-emergency activities

- Delay speed hump program or introduce cost-share program with neighborhoods

- Increase fees for services

- Outsource human resources

- Eliminate excess vehicles in favor of rentals

- Plan meetings that do not include lunches

- Delay all capital purchases

- Provide just one copy of all master plans and not one for each commissioner

-- Donnie Fetter, Columbia County Bureau Chief