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Published: 7/16/2004

Fulton Co. ditches idea for cutting workweek

WAUSEON - Fulton County commissioners will continue to review options to reduce expenses to balance the 2005 budget, but the county administrator recommended yesterday that officials abandon discussions about reducing the workweek.

Vond Hall, the administrator, said that he backed off his proposal to cut employees' hours by five hours a week to save $500,000 through December, 2005, because there was "tremendous opposition" from department heads, elected officials, and employees.

He said officials and department heads told him they wouldn't be able to get all of their work done in their offices if hours were cut, and employees didn't want their paychecks cut.

Potential budget reductions outlined by Mr. Hall yesterday included implementing a pay freeze for nonunion employees, curtailing overtime requests, transferring funds to the general fund, eliminating vacant general fund positions, and reducing expenditures in the various county departments.

Layoffs and voluntary reduction of hours were listed as possible options if needed.

Mr. Hall also recommended that commissioners put a freeze on salary increases, suggesting that wages should be capped at the 2004 level. The purchase of new equipment should be limited, and service contracts should be reviewed in an effort to cut back costs as well, he said.

The transfer of nongeneral funds into the general fund would involve discussions with the Fulton County Common Pleas Court judge about possible court action to allow the transfer under state law provisions, Mr. Hall said. He told commissioners that he doesn't have a handle yet on how much money or what funds would be involved.

Sandra K Barber, county re-corder, who attended the commissioners' meeting yesterday, said after the session that she has offered to pay a portion of her staff's salaries from funds set aside for computer expenses. Such a move, she said, would require a court order.

She said she has offered to do what she can to help out. "I understand the financial situation," she said, noting that the county's investment returns have dropped from more than $1 million in 2002 to an estimated $400,000 this year. When that happens, she said, the "county is going to experience a problem, budgetary-wise."

County officials, she said, have taken steps to trim their budgets.

Further discussions will be held with county officials and department heads about budget reductions, Mr. Hall said.

Among the factors cited in Mr. Hall's report as reasons for the county's fiscal situation were state budget cuts to funds designated for the county, increases in health insurance costs for employees, unfunded mandates from the state and federal governments, and the reduction of investment income due to global economics.

Officials have predicted a budget deficit of $400,000 by the end of 2005 if no reductions are made in the proposed budget.



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