ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis presented an amended budget request Monday that will slash the number of unpaid holidays employees will be forced to endure from 12 to five.
The adjustment comes after county staff, elected officials and representatives of Phoebe Putney Health System worked through the weekend and up until 7:30 Monday morning to renegotiate a county contract, saving $760,000.
The contract, which is for inmate medical care at the Dougherty County Jail, was originally set to cost the county $1.4 million, but Friday, as County Commissioner Jack Stone and Chairman Jeff Sinyard became actively involved in negotiations, Phoebe agreed to cut that figure in half to $700,000.
In return, county officials have agreed in principle to allow Phoebe to extend its option to renew service from four years to six. The county will officially adopt a final contract June 21.
The money saved on the contract will allow the County Commission to cut the number of unpaid holidays it was going to force its employees to take from 12 to five and keep its typical yearly calendar of nine holidays.
"We keep the same days, close the same days that we always are closed; it's just that now five will be unpaid," County Administrator Richard Crowdis said.
Changes to the plan include adding Christmas Eve as a paid holiday, which means that employees will be paid for Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Day.
The net effect, in terms of employee pay, is that employees will take a 2 percent pay cut as opposed to a 4.6 percent cut under the original plan.
Other changes proposed Monday include lowering the amount Crowdis and the Finance Committee had proposed to cut from 4.6 percent to 2 percent of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission's budget, or $5,000, and lowering the amount the Commission was going to have to cut from its pay from 4.6 percent to 2 percent.
The cut to the EDC's budget met with some resistance from Stone, who argued that if the cut was reasonable last week it should still be reasonable today, prompting a biting response from Commissioners Lamar Hudgins and Chuck Lingle who, both are on the Finance Committee.
"Times are tough, and we need to cut everywhere we can to try and get as much for our employees as possible," Stone, who proposed cutting Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful out of the budget altogether, said.
"It sure would've been helpful, Jack, if you had come to some of the Finance Committee meetings," Hudgins said forcefully across the table. "You weren't at a single meeting."
Commissioner Muarlean Edwards, who heads up the county's Public Safety Committee, said she felt the Commission should try to find enough money to keep public safety officers in the county from having to take any pay cut.
"They put their lives on the line, so we should try and find some money for them," Edwards said.
Even with the unpaid holidays, the county is going to have to pull $3.5 million from its reserve fund, which is dwindling to the point that next year, the Commission may have to get a tax anticipation loan just to maintain operations through the dry months between tax collection seasons.
The Finance Committee will host a company Wednesday that is working with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia with several counties across the state to identify existing but often untapped sources of revenue for local government. First broached by Commissioner John Hayes, the meeting comes as the Commission tries to think of alternate ways of supplementing revenues other than increasing taxes.