Two Republicans seeking the Effingham County Board of Commissioners District 4 seat pledge to do whatever is necessary to balance the county’s budget — even if that means commissioners taking a pay cut.
Steve Collins touted his management experience from 20 years as a self-employed wildlife management consultant. He also worked as a forest technician for Union Camp Corporation for 13 years.
Collins pledged to “(make) government accountable and transparent in spending your money,” but said that pay cuts, layoffs or furlough days might be unavoidable if the county’s current budget constraints continue.
“If elected, I would hope, by the following July, that we would have begun to come out of the deep recession we’re in. However, if we are not, and the budget of the county has a need for us to take pay cuts and to either lay off personnel or have a nine- or 10-percent pay cut, I would definitely support that,” Collins said.
Jamey Stancell, a business owner and founder of the Springfield Merchants Association, stated that “commissioners’ pay should be cut by whatever the budget requires it to be cut.” He also said the county should look at other ways to cut costs, such as possibly returning to a four-day work week for some county employees.
“Before I did furlough days, I would want to feel good sitting at my house, thinking about my day at work and whether I did the right thing,” Stancell said. “Have we cut every dime we can before we cut people? I think people are what make this county great. I think most of them do a great job at it every day, and I don’t think they should be cut simply because we can’t fix the budget.”
District 4 incumbent Reggie Loper, also a Republican, is seeking re-election. However, Loper could not attend a recent candidates’ forum sponsored by the Effingham Chamber of Commerce because he had previously committed to an Association of County Commissioners Regional Meeting in Swainsboro that night.
Collins took a jab at the board of commissioners’ recent vote to build a fire station in the Goshen area and “spend a million-and-a-half dollars in taxpayers’ money with no improvement of the ISO rating,” a scale that helps determine insurance rates. He said there is “no public safety issue” to merit the new fire station.
“In this building, there were eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms which will one day be an additional cost to house employees in a fire station south of Rincon,” Collins said. “The commissioner of the district, Phillip Kieffer, voted against it because he said it was not the time or the place for the service. That is what I would like to see, is a more common-sense approach to our services.”
Stancell suggested the county revise its budget process and not “just cut and paste from one year to the next — we add 3 percent and cut 9.” He said county leaders need to “give really good, hard looks at each department” to make sure taxpayers’ money is being spent as effectively as possible.
“I believe firmly in a zero-(based) budget — have each department come back to me and explain to me why they need what money they need, and rebuild the budget from ground zero,” Stancell said. “When you start talking about cutting services, what you’re doing is cutting jobs. I don’t think we need to be cutting jobs; I think we need to be more resourceful in what we do.”
Loper’s supporters provided a handout outlining his goals and qualifications.
“We all need to work for the greater good and certainly not personal agendas or personal interests,” Loper’s flyer said in part. “There needs to be an atmosphere of trust among all leaders and citizens in Effingham County. There needs to be a united front.”