The financial impact of 235 Macon-Bibb County employees taking early retirements will trickle well into next year.
County leaders said Tuesday that while Macon-Bibb surpassed its goal for the number of people accepting retirements, sustaining some of the budget cuts will be more difficult next year.
This year’s budget funded 1,993 positions, but after early retirements there are 1,813 jobs being paid for now. Some of those positions already have or will be filled. However, many of those jobs will remain open for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2016.
“We’ve had some help from the (Bibb County Sheriff’s Office) and department heads saying we can probably squeeze by this year, but we cannot promise you we can live this way,” said Julie Moore, assistant county manager for budget and strategic planning.
Some Macon-Bibb leaders have said they wanted to amend the general fund budget by lowering it by $2.9 million. That is the amount of savings in salaries after a larger number of employees accepted retirements than the projected 93 workers, of which 71 were paid through the general fund.
The updated projections would bring the county closer to meeting its requirement to reduce government costs by 20 percent within five years of consolidation. The county is about a year ahead of schedule as the budget is on target to drop from $165 million in the first year of consolidation to about $145 million this year.
Moore said the retirement packages have been successful in reducing the workforce and eliminating duplicated services, but more challenges are ahead as decisions are made on which positions to fill.
“We feel like we’re landing a plane, and it’s already bumpy,” she said Tuesday at a special called meeting of the Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Operations and Finance Committee.
Commissioner Elaine Lucas said it’s important that the county doesn’t give the impression that everything is going well if it isn’t.
“I just want to know the truth about this whole thing and going into the future what we’re facing,” Lucas said.
Among the hardest-hit departments from early retirements is a fire department that will hire about 55 people by next spring, and the sheriff’s office that is down about 100 positions, of which 60 of them have been unfilled since the merger of the city of Macon and Bibb County.
The sheriff’s office is using overtime to cover some of the shortage that includes about 10 deputies and six jail employees, Sheriff David Davis said.
The agency continues to tread water as it’s cut about 10 percent of its budget since consolidation.
“We know what we’re trying to do to accomplish to get the budgets down,” Davis said. “I just don’t see how we can sustain (current levels) over the long haul.”
BLIGHT COMMITTEE UPDATE
The contract details for a blight project manager was among the main topics at Tuesday’s Macon-Bibb County Ad Hoc Blight Committee meeting.
Earlier this month, the committee recommending hiring Cass Hatcher of Georgia Behavioral Services to oversee the demolition of structures as the county commission spends $10 million to combat blight.
A draft of the contract would pay $2,000 for each house that is demolished. Hatcher is the agency’s director of housing development and facilities.
Although he gets paid for each blighted structure that’s torn down, Hatcher said he will work with the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority to ensure that the right properties are rehabilitated.
The contract could go before another Macon-Bibb committee as early as next month. It would be a one-year contract that’s renewable for another two years.
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 and find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.