It is time for the citizens to speak.
The Effingham County Commissioners are moving swiftly ahead to adopt a budget on Aug. 4 at a 6 p.m. meeting.
Present information is that they will have a budget that will include the proposed raises for all employees. This will include 4 percent raises for all employees, and 2 percent merit for some employees, the dollar amount is $619,136. These raises are proposed at a time when many folks are being laid off or given furlough days (without pay). Their most recent reason for going along with these raises is that there are other counties giving raises to employees. Research also shows that there are a larger number of counties who are not giving raises.
The issue is not whether employees are good, bad or indifferent but the use of taxpayers’ dollars. With the current state of the economy we have seen the state implement further furloughs. The furloughs now include teachers — that tells you something about the present state of the economy.
Yes, Effingham has a good fiscal basis currently, but do we need to spend down to the point that when revenues decrease and even dry up that Effingham could be left with not enough money to go around. A judicious use of funds now, by not allowing salary increases, could prevent the lay-off of personnel in the future.
The commissioners frequently refer to Department 51 as an area to cut out. That sounds good until you look at the numbers. The total of $759,884 can only be reduced by $51,006 because the other items in that budget department (i.e., library, public health, rural transportation, mental health and an add-on fine that goes by law to Victim Witness) cannot be eliminated due to contract, legal issues, etc. So much for throwing out the non-profits and their good services to the citizens to reduce expenditures.
What can you do as a citizen? Pick up your phone and call your commissioner, tell them how you feel about this budget issue. The best information indicates that the $619,136 decrease in budget could result in at least one-half mill decrease in taxes. If you have looked at your recent tax assessments I believe that you will vote for the tax millage. Be there on Aug. 4 at 6 p.m., let your commissioners know that you want your voice heard. Call and be at the hearing.
Commissioners’ phone numbers: Dusty Zeigler, 754-2123 (this is the commissioners’ office. Zeigler does not make a home phone available); Bob Brantley, 748-7331; Myra Lewis, 728-3164; Jeff Utley, 754-9031; Reggie Loper, 754-6286; Verna Phillips, 826-4931.
Loper is the only commissioner that has taken a stand to eliminate these raises from the proposed budget, tell him you support him.