Supervisors trim budget; final vote postponed

 

The 2009 Washington County Budget is still a work in progress.

County budget officer Gayle Hall (Fort Ann) asked for the resolution to adopt the 2009 tentative budget be removed from the agenda at the Nov. 21 meeting of the board.

“It’s obvious that we are not ready to take action at this time,” said Hall when the resolution was brought to the floor. “I motion that we table this and pick this up again at a Dec. 2 meeting to be held at 11 a.m. to continue action on the 2009 budget.”

While the board did not move on the budget, they did act on a number of resolutions designed to trim appropriations and lower the county-wide tax levy.

Supervisors voted to eliminate the three percent salary increase to all exempt county employees by a 3,274-793 vote.

Supervisor James Lindsay said that the board should look at itself when making decisions concerning where to cut salaries.

“I don’t understand how we can spend 15 minutes talking about keeping a few thousand for us and then turn around and cut with this resolution and not think twice about it,” said Lindsay.

While Dresden supervisor Robert Banks voted against the measure, Granville supervisor Rodger Hurley and Whitehall Supervisor Vernon Scribner voted in favor of the salary cap.

“The public should know that for what we get paid a year, I feel that when you look at the cuts, we gave up far more than what we are asking our department heads to give up,” said Scribner.

Hampton supervisor Don Sady, at his first board meeting since being elected and sworn in to the position, abstained from the voting.

“This is an area that I just can’t make an informative decision at this point,” said Sady.

The board also voted to remove funding for the Lake Lauderdale and Hulett’s Landing Recreation parks from the 2009 budget by a tally of 2,484 for the closing of the parks to  1648 against.

“I strongly object to closing the parks,” said Banks, who voted against the move.

“I think that maybe we should talk to Lynn Enny, who runs the park up at Hulett’s, to get some ideas on how we can raise more funds and cut spending at the parks,” said Scribner, who also voted against the motion.

County board Chairperson JoAnn Trinkle said that she had received 92 articles of correspondence concerning the park issue.

“They have been from residents of Hulett’s and they are all against closing the park,” said Trinkle.

Sady also voted against the closing of the parks, while Hurley voted in favor of the measure.

Banks said that no matter what happened at the county level, the Hulett’s park would be open next summer.

“If the county can not come up with something by the time we put this budget together, then the town will get something done and it will be open, period,” said Banks.

The board voted to cut $100,000 from the tentative budget in anticipation of a targeted hiring freeze in 2009.

“The discussion on the targeted hiring freeze is based on evaluating each person at each slot when the opening is created,” said Hurley. “It is my understanding that county administrators will develop a plan to detail exactly how it’s going to occur. The $100,000 is the initial figure. The spirit of resolution was that there was going to be high attention that the maximum amount of slots that are opened will not be filled, providing for maximum efficiency and maximum savings from a targeting hiring freeze.”

“What this resolution does is take this $100,000 out of our fund balance,” said Hall. “But is that money going to need to be put back into the fund balance? Past history indicates probably not.”

Banks said that the money would have to be taken out of the general fund because there was no way of telling where the eliminated positions would come from.

“You can’t say right now that we are going to target this guy and this guy,” said Banks.

Argyle Supervisor Robert Henke was against the measure, saying that he felt a hiring freeze was the wrong way of doing business.

“A hiring freeze makes an organization very top heavy,” said Henke. “The ones that need the jobs to stay off of food stamps are always the ones that get hurt whenever you talk about a hiring freeze. It’s a bad way of doing business.”

Hurley and Banks voted in favor of the motion, as well as Sady and Scribner.

The closest vote came with the resolution to remove renting a shoulder machine for the county highway department, which was passed by a vote of 2,147 in favor and 1,995 against. While Banks voted against the elimination of the machine, Hurley, Sady and Scribner voted in favor of the motion.

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