published Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Whitfield furlough days begin in April

DALTON, Ga.—Whitfield County employees will take the first of four mandatory unpaid furlough days next month, a move that is estimated to save the county about $400,000.

All administrative buildings will be closed on the furlough days, which have been declared special county holidays. The first one will be April 29, with the other three falling on the fifth Fridays of July, September and December.

Emergency re-sponse personnel such as deputies and firefighters will take furloughs on a rotating basis similar to vacation days, county finance director Ron Hale said.

Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said the department’s administrative office will be closed on furlough days, and shift supervisors will work with deputies to schedule their days. He said he did not know how many of the department’s 189 employees will take furloughs on the scheduled days and how many will take the time off some other time.

“Every employee will take the required furlough days,” he said.

Hale said the savings were estimated by calculating salaries and savings on utilities and county vehicles that would not be used those days.

County commissioners voted to implement the furlough days in December as one of several budget-cutting measures used to meet a budget shortfall. Commissioners had considered furlough options in 2009 and 2010 at the recommendation of county administrators, but chose not to require them, Hale said.

By state law, the county’s 15 constitutional officers — such as judges, commissioners and the sheriff — must be paid the amount set up by state statutes and cannot be required to take a furlough day, Hale said.

However, they can donate the equivalent pay back to the county, which would be considered a charitable contribution, he said.

Several officers, including all county commissioners, have returned their pay, and several others said they plan to do so. If all the officers participate, those donations would save the county a little more than $11,000, Hale said.

Danny Sane, Whitfield County tax commissioner, said he believes donating his salary is the right thing to do.

“If my employees in my office are going to, I choose to do it with them,” he said. “The whole community is hurting, and we need to work to do our part to reduce costs.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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