Barrow officials will not reduce hours

WINDER - The Barrow County Commission on Tuesday made an about face on its decision earlier this month to reduce work hours of county employees, instead ratifying only its earlier resolution to eliminate positions and consolidate departments.

Barrow's June 9 resolution had called for county employees to work half days two Fridays monthly, with proportionate 5 percent salary reduction. It also had called for non-specific layoffs, demotions, transfers and reclassifications for employees, who already have taken some pay cuts and holidays unpaid. A stop-gap preference to raising property taxes, the measures were aimed at saving an estimated $600,000 to $717,000 of the cash-strapped county's $1.6 million budget shortfall for its fiscal year ending in September.

Commission chairman Danny Yearwood, aided by county Human Resources Director Norma Jean Brown, was charged with formulating the reductions. Though most all employees were woven into consolidated departments of different names, among the eliminated positions were the Department of Leisure Services' athletics coordinator, as well as directors of the Airport Authority, Planning and Zoning, Buildings and Grounds, Central Communications and two information systems departments.

The Sheriff's approximately $12 million annual budget was left unmodified. Disproportionately the largest department, Yearwood noted it already was over budget and further cuts would stress it unduly.

The net savings: nearly $243,000 this fiscal year and an estimated $1.4 in 2010. Largely voluntary layoffs of 18 workers and retirement of three others saved approximately $237,000, and restructuring trimmed another $5,600. Yearwood said those cuts, as well as revision of the formula by which salary increases will be given, was preferable to cutting Friday hours and crippling departments.

Yearwood and Brown called their work in recent weeks tireless and their livelihood-changing decisions weighty.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," said Brown, in her fifth year as HR director. "Lives were affected, but progress has been made."

Yearwood said he personally met with every department head and elected official prior to formulating the cuts, a time consuming task.

"I think it was a great success this got put together," he said. "People need to realize all the work that went into this."