published Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Chattooga County officials refuse to take furlough

Chattooga County, Ga., officials have refused to take furlough days that Sole Commissioner Jason Winters implemented to curb overspending in his $10 million budget through the end of the year.

Winters said the furlough days would cut $48,000 from this year’s budget, which could help carry departments through the end of the year. But the only department projected to go overbudget is the sheriff’s office.

Winters can’t make elected officials take furloughs or directly cut their salaries, according to officials with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

Outgoing Sheriff John Everett is expected to spend more than $300,000 over budget after hiring too many employees and sending inmates to the Floyd County Jail but keeping a full jail staff in Chattooga.

While Everett — who lost re-election this summer — refused to furlough himself, his patrol officers are taking a pay cut.

Capt. Ken Anderson said patrol officers are cutting back eight hours a month by trimming two hours off some of their 12-hour shifts. The cut is expected to save $19,000 a month.

Everett has declined numerous requests for comment.

County officials such as the Superior Court clerk and chief magistrate argue their employees shouldn’t take salary cuts, too, because their departments haven’t gone overbudget.

“I just don’t see the point,” said Clerk of Court Sam “Lann” Cordle Jr. “The money that was budgeted for this office should be there and, if the money’s there and everybody’s in budget, why are we out of money?”

Chief Magistrate Tracy Maddux said he won’t ask his two clerks, who are among the lowest-paid employees in the county, to take a pay cut because his department is doing everything it can to save money. For the last three years, Maddux said, he’s been under budget and this year is projected to have $10,000 left.

“Why should my people give up their salaries?” he asked.

Winters said money for next year’s budget is shrinking because the county’s tax revenues are decreasing. He asked departments to implement furlough days this year in hopes of making things easier next year.

As for the sheriff’s spending over budget, Winters said he is attempting to work out a plan to cut Everett’s budget, but the two haven’t reached an agreement.

Winters is allowed to amend department budgets to cut costs, said Allen Poole, chairman for District 1 of the Association County Commissioners. District 1 covers Chattooga.

Because the county is facing a deficit, Winters said he may have to look at cutting other department budgets before the end of the year.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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