Budget still Commissioners’ main focus
Another department head left commissioners court without permission to fill a vacant position. Paula Anders, director of transportation had a part time position of dispatcher that was recently vacated. She said it needed to be filled because “the phones are ringing off the wall.”
Anders said they were receiving 8,000 calls a month, which averages 400 a day. The large number of calls is due to current commercials and billboards for Southeast Transit. The advertising did not originate with the county. She did not know how long the advertising is to continue.
Since commissioners are still trying to determine the budget and have denied other departments from filling vacancies, the agenda item died from lack of a motion.
Anders told The Record there has been an increase in revenue from the advertising, but she did not bring that point up to commissioners during the meeting.
Another agenda item had several computers being moved from the transportation department and typewriters from the district clerk to surplus. Referring to possible budget cuts, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux remarked, “They might want to think about hanging on to those.”
I didn’t really apply, because the computers and equipment in question has already been replaced.
In the budget workshop, Thibodeaux said, “On the operating expense side we started off with approximately $1.4 million deficit with the increased operating expenses facing us this year, primarily payroll commitments. Right now we’ve reduced the $1.4 million operating expenses down to $906,000 which is good.” Capital outlay has been reduced from $4,892,260 to $4,044,113, “That needs to come down.”
Thibodeaux said total operating expenses are sitting at $42,339,779. “We need to try to get that number down”.
He said the potential fund balance at the end of the year id close to $2 million. Their target is $3 million. “We still have a lot to do, but we are making progress even though it’s a little bit at a time,” said Thibodeaux.
He is hoping some of the items cut will be reinstated by the time the budget is adopted. His main goal is to reinstate the employee matrix. “It’s cut right now and there’s a reason it’s cut; economics. I personally would like to see the employee matrix put back in. Whether we can or not, I don’t know.”
Thibodeaux said his target date to adopt the budget is now Sept. 24 instead of the 17th, which gives them another week to work on cuts
They are going to be looking closely at the unfilled positions in the county and also looking at upcoming retirements in the next 12 months and what departments they are in. The possibility of not filling positions as people retire may be an ongoing thing said Thibodeaux.
“It’s not a popular thing, but I’d rather have it that way than all of a sudden deciding we’re going to cut our workforce and start laying people off. That’s a totally unacceptable option as far as we’re concerned here on the court.”
Thibodeaux said they are going to keep reviewing expenses and cuts. “If it has to be $10,000 and $20,000 at a time then it will be$10,000 and $20,000 at a time. If we can’t find any more cuts then so be it, we’ll have to live with what we’ve done. The revenues are pretty much in granite.” He said revenue estimates may be on the conservative side but to overestimate revenues to balance a budget is unacceptable.
“This is where we are at. We’ve made some progress. It’s still not my target numbers, but we are moving forward in that direction. We still have the option of peeling back expenses a certain percent and let the department heads decide what those cuts should be.” Thibodeaux said the county has steadily cut back expenses each year; where the increases have been are payroll, insurance and fuel, which will continue to rise.