A lawnmower here; a couple of computers there.
In what Bibb County commissioners called an unprecedented move, all of the countys department heads and elected officials met on two hours notice Monday afternoon to try to trim any excesses to help reduce a potential deficit for the countys proposed fiscal 2013 budget.
The response means the county wont have to apply more draconian cuts next year, such as a 2.5 percent across-the-board budget reduction or furloughs, which had been floated early Monday morning.
Several department heads and elected officials managed to trim about $400,000 during the session, which lowered the deficit the county is facing to about $4.5 million.
Ive always said Bibb County is like a family, Commissioner Joe Allen told the group. Yall proved it today. When we told you we needed help, yall were here.
Allen later said it was the first time he could recall during his tenure as a commissioner the board bringing in all of the countys departments at once to make budget cuts.
Thanks to the latest cuts, the deficit, which started out at more than $13 million, is down to about $4.5 million.
The commissioners agreed to cover the deficit with county reserve funds from the general fund.
The largest set of cuts from the afternoon session came from the Bibb County Sheriffs Office, which eliminated about $223,000 from line items as well as a 1 percent across-the-board cut from its operations budget. The move wont affect salaries, Bibb County Chief Deputy David Davis said.
Sheriff Jerry Modena credited Davis with the idea for the 1 percent cut, which will yield about $200,000 in savings.
They ran it by me, and I thought it was a good idea, Modena said.
Other departments, such as engineering and the tax assessors office, also offered cuts, as did the coroners office, the Board of Elections and Superior Court. The cuts ranged from equipment purchases to freezing open positions those departments had requested be filled. Some department heads told the board they didnt have the opportunity yet to come up with cuts, but would look to do so Tuesday.
Theyve never done anything like this on such short notice, Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart said. That level of cooperativeness is rare. I didnt see any hesitation.
Last week, the commissioners managed to reduce the budget deficit from $13 million down to $6.5 million. Earlier Monday morning, they cut an additional $1.6 million through various line items in the general fund budget as well as either reducing or eliminating entirely proposed budget increases from the agencies the county supports.
While the commissioners didnt decrease any requested appropriation for fiscal 2013 that was equal to that of 2012, only one agency -- the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority at $5,027 -- got the full amount of increase it asked for.
Several agencies -- including the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, the Museum of Arts & Sciences, and NewTown Macon, among others -- will get no increase at all. Others, such as Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission and the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority -- were given a portion of requested increases.
Several commissioners said they would be keeping a close eye on the county-supported agencies to make certain the agencies were meeting their goals.
During Thursdays budget meeting, the board criticized Keep Macon-Bibb Beautifuls efforts over the past year.
For the money we spend, I dont see that the taxpayers of this county get the value they ought to be getting, Edwards said last week. It has not happened.
Since then, the organization put together a list of specific goals that can be measured, which they distributed to the commissioners. While Edwards was still critical of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful in Mondays meeting, he seemed satisfied by the organization having a firm list of objectives.
Theyve come up with a plan, which gives us a standard to judge them by, he said.
Other commissioners want similar standards for other entities they fund. For example, the commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the firm of Holland & Knight, which serves as the countys lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
Edwards said during the meeting that fellow Commissioner Elmo Richardson had brought in as much funds to the county on his own as the firm had.
After some debate, the board asked county CAO Steve Layson to see if the contract with the firm could be renegotiated.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.