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County to save $800K with force reduction

COVINGTON - The county has terminated 16.5 employees in order to balance the fiscal year 2010 budget.

The county will save approximately $800,000 with the reduction in force. Both part-time and full-time employees were affected.

The department taking the biggest hit is the Planning and Zoning Department, which lost six of its 19 employees.

Newton County Fire Services was reduced by two employees, with the Public Works department reduced by 2.5, including one-part time position.

The Chairman and Board of Commissioners Office, which covers the financing and purchasing departments, also lost two employees.

The Board of Elections Office was reduced by 1.5 employees, representing two full-time positions, with one possibly being reinstated in January.

The Tax Assessors Office and Water Resources each lost one employee, and the GIS department was reduced by .5 employees, counted as such because the position is shared with the city of Covington.

"In determining which positions would be eliminated, the primary consideration was to maintain the level of services the county provides to the greatest extent feasible," Administrative Assistant John Middleton said. "To this end, departments and positions were examined to determine which departments had experienced a reduction in work load and whether job responsibilities overlapped such that positions, departments and services could be consolidated."

The work force reduction is effective July 1.

Terminated employees will get a severance package that includes four weeks pay and county provided health insurance for the remainder of the year, Middleton said.

Middleton and Morgan met with department heads and affected employees following approval of the budget this week.

The county has a total of 595 employees.

Initially, estimates were that between 45 and 62 employees would have to be cut, as commissioners grappled with how to make up a $5 million shortfall, but thanks to other cost-saving measures implemented by the county, and about $646,000 in additional revenue that was not projected, that number was reduced.

Remaining employees will be required to take 16 unpaid holidays this year, including two half days off, which will save the county about $1.7 million. Those who might have to work on a designated holiday will be paid their regular hourly rate - no overtime. A bonus that was previously awarded for perfect attendance has also been eliminated.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.