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BOC holds off on unpaid holidays

CONYERS -- A proposal to implement unpaid holidays for Rockdale County employees was deferred Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners for further study.

County Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon requested the deferral of a vote to designate Labor Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve as unpaid holidays.

He said deferring a vote until the BOC's Aug. 10 meeting would help in the county administration's work to find more cuts in spending.

"This will give us a chance to coordinate with our Finance Department and our constitutional officers," Pridgeon said. "We have had some discussions and would like to look at other options, including the adoption of this at the appropriate time."

Unpaid holidays are part of a series of measures Pridgeon presented to the commissioners in June to reduce county spending and meet a $4.2 million revenue gap in the county's general fund budget.

The county had a work force reduction earlier this month that affected 38 total positions. Most of those positions were unfilled and were removed from the budget, but 16 people in both full- and part-time positions lost their jobs in the reduction.

Another component was an early retirement incentive program that was brought to the commissioners for consideration, but the initial savings projections were reduced and the measure has not been brought up since it was discussed in late June.

Overall, the county has cut close to $2 million in spending. Pridgeon said during the BOC's Monday work session that the three unpaid holidays were expected to save the county an additional $300,000 along with $135,000 from the Sheriff's Office.

The commissioners voted Monday to defer by a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner JaNice Van Ness against the motion. She said Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden commented during work session that the county was moving forward on making difficult decisions in discussions on the unpaid holidays.

Now, the measure is being delayed. Van Ness said Oden had met with the county's elected officials before Tuesday's BOC meeting, but sought to have the BOC make a decision on the matter.

"I think we're just playing a yo-yo game with the employees of Rockdale County. The fact is we have a $4 million shortfall and we don't have a way to make up millions of dollars unless we put it on the backs of the homeowners," Van Ness said. "I feel like we should move forward with, at least, the Labor Day holiday as a furlough day because we know that's going to be an issue, and it's better to do it then than during the holidays."

In past years, the BOC would hold public hearings in late July or early August to set the millage rate based on the tax digest prepared by the tax commissioner and Board of Assessors' Office.

Property tax bills are then mailed out in September and due by Nov. 15.

Pridgeon and other county officials have said an increase in the millage rate was inevitable. The question had been how much of an increase was needed, and that would be based on how many spending cuts could be found.