Another $1.5 million cut from budget

LAWRENCEVILLE — Commissioners cut another $1.5 million in expenses Tuesday, a month after closing an $18 million budget gap.

To keep costs down as the economy draws concern, the moves include refraining from hiring 20 firefighters until November (the positions are currently vacant) and eliminating three vacant jobs in transportation and one in transit.

The county also avoided a $400,000 expense when March’s special election to fill the chairman’s seat did not result in a runoff.

Realignments and cuts were also made to support services, police and community services and minor reductions were made to law, fleet, water, sewer and stormwater, a press release said.

At the same time, commissioners voted to increase fees for the community service program administered by the county prison. As of May 1, the work alternative program, where first-time offenders are sentenced to spend their weekends cleaning up roadways or parks, will cost $110 for registration (up from $85), as well as a daily fee of $10 (up from a $4 to $7 sliding scale).

“I appreciate the voluntary cuts made by many different departments to help balance the budget as we move through these tough economic times,” Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in the release. “Earlier spending reductions and fee increases taken with the actions we approved today improve the county’s financial outlook not only this year but in 2012 and 2013 where we will likely face continuing challenges resulting from a declining property tax digest.

“We intend to keep looking at operating efficiencies, cost cutting opportunities, ways to generate additional revenue and service priorities as we recognize our current reality. Like everyone, though, we look forward to an economic recovery.”