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Budget proposal would slash Rockdale HR department

CONYERS — A budget proposal before the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners would eliminate all but two positions in the Human Resources Department by outsourcing the wellness program, employee training and other HR functions. The overall reduction in the department would save the county about $424,000 in 2014.

Commissioners are set to vote on the second reading of the county’s 2014 budget ordinance — including the proposed cuts to HR — at a called meeting set for Wednesday, Dec. 18, 9 a.m., at the Assembly Hall at 901 Main St.

The cuts to HR were proposed by Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness at Tuesday’s regular BOC meeting following a lengthy closed session for the discussion of personnel and potential litigation. A vote on the second reading of the budget was deferred at that time in order to give the county’s finance director an opportunity to incorporate the new cuts into the overall budget document.

According to a document created by Finance Director Roselyn Miller, which was acquired by the Citizen through an Open Records request, proposed cuts to HR include $189,580 in exempt salaries and $102,774 in non-exempt salaries. Related payroll costs to be eliminated would total an additional $88,993.

In addition to savings in payroll, the proposed cuts would eliminate $98,486 in professional services.

Total cuts amount to about 56 percent of the HR Department’s $783,000 budget request for 2014.

“This proposal was made about outsourcing HR so we can gain some efficiencies and cost savings, which could be quite significant,” Van Ness said Friday.

Van Ness said the proposed cuts would transfer all of the county’s wellness program operations from HR to Cigna, the county’s health insurance provider.

Two HR positions would be retained — one to work with employees on benefits and act as a liaison with employees and the other to help department heads advertise and interview to fill vacancies, among other responsibilities.

Training of county employees and other HR functions could be outsourced, Van Ness said, with much of the training and employee HR requests handled online.

Van Ness said she did not know how many positions would be affected by the proposed.

The county’s payroll operation is already outsourced to ADP.

Van Ness and Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt have been working for the past several weeks to trim Chairman Richard Oden’s original proposed budget of $59 million to about $57 million, reducing the amount needed from reserves to balance the budget to $4.7 million.

Nesbitt said Friday he hasn’t yet decided if he will support the cuts to Human Resources. Nesbitt said he will meet with HR Director Darryl Bowie on Sunday evening at Bowie’s request.

Van Ness did not discuss concerns about management in the HR department, but Nesbitt said he’s “not completely satisfied” with the department’s operation.

“I think Commissioner Van Ness’s concerns are valid,” Nesbitt said. “I’m not totally at ease with all of what’s happening in our Human Resources Department; however, the Human Resources director reports directly to the chairman, who is responsible for day-to-day operations. I think before jumping to any conclusions, I want to wait and see what the chairman’s response will be to Commissioner Van Ness’s concerns.”

Nesbitt said he was concerned about the lack of communication from the chairman’s office regarding a proposal this significant.

“This surfaced on Tuesday,” Nesbitt said. “It’s now Friday; Wednesday a decision is going to have to be made. I’m really the guy caught in the middle with making this decision. I haven’t heard from the chief of staff and I haven’t heard from the chairman.”

“If the chairman doesn’t want this to happen he should communicate his reasons why not,” Nesbitt added.