In recent months, the county has axed nearly $900,000 from future years’ budgets in an effort to successfully implement an approved pay plan. With still more than $300,000 in cuts to go to reach the goal of $1.2 million, County manager Ed Causey said it will take a Herculean effort to do that without cutting jobs.
Entering Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, $283,147.42 in reductions had been made toward the 2016-17 goal of $345,497, leaving $62,349.58 in cuts needed.
The pay plan will be implemented over four years at an estimated cost of $3.7 million, including roughly $1.1 million and matching fringes for the 2015-16 budget. The plan further calls for $1,193,391 in real permanent savings over the next four years, necessitating a reduction of $345,497 starting in the 2016-17 budget.
On Monday, additional savings were presented through Tax Office technology efficiencies totaling $40,503.75, Agri-Exposition Center savings in the amount of $720 and by a shift of Public building employees to Public Works, saving $104,330.25. The total anticipated budget savings achieved as a result is $145,554, which is $83,204.42 more than the reductions pledged for 2016-17.
The anticipated costs, salary and benefits for a Human Resources Director (based upon estimated salary of $60,000) would be $82,791. The county manager’s budget message for the past two years and the adopted pay plan implementation strategy both addressed the need for the establishment of a HR Department.
“Our pay plan implementation pledged to not only reduce the budget by $1,193,391, but within these reductions to find the funds to pay for the hiring of a Human Resources Director without increasing the total number of county employees,” Causey stated. “We propose to utilize the additional reductions achieved by the Public Works and Tax Office proposals to accomplish this.”
The board unanimously concurred, approving the budget cuts and adding the position of HR director.
Of that nearly $1.2 million in total real savings needed, $874,486.55 have been approved to date. That leaves $318,904.45 in savings the county needs to come up with for 2018.
“We will have accomplished the cuts for 2016 and 2017,” said Causey. “At this point in time, I do not have the wizardry to tell you I have up my sleeve something I’m thinking about for that $318,000.”
Causey said there were any number of ideas that have now been thoroughly researched and some recommended toward achieving savings. Now comes the even harder part.
“The good news is I have a year to work on this. The concern I have is I would be extremely surprised if this does not affect some jobs and positions. In fact, I’m going to assume that to get that $318,000 I’m going to have to probably reduce seven, eight or nine positions to achieve that.”
As part of the reassignment and reclassification of the positions in the Tax Office and Public Works approved Monday, the total number of county employees would decrease by one.
For years, Public Buildings and Public Works have required staff to be cross‐trained in the work of three divisions (Buildings, Water and Road Sign maintenance). Staff is daily tasked with work from each of these divisions. Two employees currently paid from the Public Buildings division are increasingly called upon for tasks within the Water division, and with current changes in water operations, this enterprise fund can now support the cost of the salaries of these two positions.
As an enterprise fund, the cost of operations is borne by the fees associated with water operations, not the tax base. As such, transfer of the cost of these two employees from Public Buildings to Public Works will result in permanent savings in excess of $100,000.
“This gives us the opportunity to evaluate across the board, find out what we can potentially do and then prioritize those to see what we can potentially do,” Causey said. “My challenge now is I can tell you we can cut one position here or there, but I cannot tell you right now which one has higher priority.”
“If this is approved,” Causey continued, “we have some time.”
Attrition could take care of some positions, or some consolidation could be examined, he noted. Having extra time would mean exploring every avenue to “keep people employed,” the county manager noted.
Commissioners lauded Causey with going above and literally beyond, ensuring that cuts were made not only for 2016-17 but 2017-18. Causey in turn credited department heads and county employees, saying more work would be done in the future to pave the way for a successful pay plan implementation with as little impact on the workforce as possible.
“I can’t guarantee you that in the end we will save all the positions, but there will be a very concerted effort to do this in a responsible manner and create as minimal an impact as possible.”
While there was some discussion on the HR director and the scope of that position,Causey conceded the full requirements of the job are not set, nor is the pay graded at this time. That will be the subject of further talks.
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