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BOC mulls what to eliminate
Board considers where to cut costs in budget

LAWRENCEVILLE - Commissioners will consider eliminating plans to add police officers and open fire stations, along with other moves to balance a budget of more than $1 billion.

The move, which could mean two fire stations under construction will not open this year and enhancements such as a government green initiatives won't happen, would save $20 million in 2009's general fund and up to $82 million through 2014.

Another $124 million in capital projects, which would have implications in operating funds, would be deferred over the next five years, if commissioners adopt the plan Tuesday.

While 105 positions that have become empty due to a hiring freeze over the past year will be eliminated, the plan calls for no layoffs, and does not eliminate planned raises for employees.

But County Administrator Jock Connell said the proposal is simply the first round in reductions, necessitated after commissioners voted down a proposed 25 percent tax increase earlier this month.

"This is the first leg of the race here," Connell said. "Every day that slips away from us in '09, it's another dollar out the door. Our first immediate action was to grab the immediate things. ... We've got a serious financial situation and we needed to stop the bleeding as soon as we could."

While the cuts are enough to balance the 2009 spending plan, Finance Director Aaron Bovos said officials have more work to do to keep the county in the black in the future, as expenses go up.

Officials have set a priority of keeping the county rainy day fund intact, hoping to preserve a AAA bond rating.

But the delay in setting the millage rate earlier this month could mean officials have to borrow funds to continue operations.

At the earliest, commissioners could consider the 2009 millage rate on July 21, which is past the usual deadline for property tax bills to be mailed. Bovos said the county has enough cash on hand to weather up to a 90-day delay in tax collections.

"We've enjoyed the luxury of not having to borrow cash, but that is a common practice," he said.

SideBar: Possible cuts

Here are some of the cuts proposed to commissioners to balance the 2009 budget without raising taxes.

Elimination of all commissioner initiatives, including:

· Light rail study, $250,000

· Privatizing jail operations study, $265,000

· Efficiency review of judicial operations, $350,000

· GPS in vehicles, $500,000

· Go Green initiative, $1,067,000

· Work on property seizures, $99,000

· Sports Council, $100,000

· Mall of Georgia CID, $100,000

· Web site enhancements, $25,000

Elimination of 2009 program modifications:

· 29 police uniform staffing package, $2,056,121

· 18 police uniform staffing package, $2,000,000

(11 people had already been hired of the original group of 29)

· DA-Drug Task Force personnel, $122,506

· DA-Juvenile Court personnel, $83,814

· Non-departmental compensation reserve, $850,000

· Non-departmental contingency for senior judges, $79,882

· DA-Criminal investigator personnel, $74,404

· Economic development studies, $150,000

· Contribution to capital reduction, $1,997,994

· Elimination of vacant positions within departments, $5,573,776

· Reduction in total budget by constitutional officers (courts, sheriff and tax commissioner), $1,968,715

· Reduction to reserves and contingencies, $4,204,887