Chairman John Raber began the first Public Hearing on the budget with a failed attempt to keep people from speaking out. He announced, “I will arrange for you to be the one to stand in front of an employee and tell him why he is losing his job if any of you think county jobs need to be eliminated.” Before the meeting was over two hours later, several residents not only volunteered to take him up on it; they accused him of trying to intimidate them.
Numerous recommendations were made to the commissioners on how the budget might be reduced including more furlough days, eliminating employees, eliminating the county contribution to employee retirement, reducing the size of government and going to a four day work week. Karen Bowden, Commission Bowden’s wife, pointed out that County Manager Stan Kelley had offered budget options that did not require a tax increase.
Ronald Caldwell asked, “What can we do without?” Melvin Turner pointed out that 10% of taxpayers are being furloughed 365 days a year.” Jeff Clymer said, “You are trying to make employees happy instead of the taxpayers.”
Missy Wymer pointed out that Raber’s statement about every department being asked to reduce their budget by 10 % was misleading. She pointed out that budgets of most departments had actually been increased.
Greg Puetz pointed out that there is a $379,000 increase in the proposed 2011 Budget over the current budget. He said that the budget needs to be written so that people can understand it. He is familiar with such budgets, but finds our budget difficult to decipher.
County Finance Dept. representative, Mark French, responded to requests about the amount of department cuts with percentages ranging from 25% in one department to only 13% for Park & Rec. He said only about half the departments actually had reduced budgets.
Commissioner Scott said he vigorously opposed cuts to essential service like EMS. The audience unanimously opposed cuts to essential services, however, they clearly wanted cuts to non-essential services.
Lori Lee Hackerson asked, “What about next year?” Commissioner Scott acknowledged that this budget only applies a band aid. Hackerson replied, “Then we need to take a scalpel (to it).”
Jeff Clymer told the commissioners that they will make next year’s budget decisions even worse if they raise taxes this year and put more people out of business. He pointed out that a tax increase this year will reduce the number of property owners who will be around to pay taxes next year.
Robert Small praised people for speaking out and said we have to get over being intimidated by elected officials.
Taxpayers clearly expect government employees to cope with the same kind of income reductions that they have. Numerous persons talked about how they are having to make do with less.
The only person in the room who claimed to be having great financial success was the chairman who bragged that he had just invested in another great financial enterprise. John Raber, who has spoken out supporting tax increases every year that he has been on the Lumpkin County Commission, is clearly out of touch with his constituents.
Many people spoke during the meeting. Please send corrections to <Emily@lumpkinsunshine.com> if the names are not correct. If you would like to comment on this article, you may register as a USER on the Homepage and submit the comment. To prevent SPAM, Users must be approved by the Administrator before a comment can be posted. Emily Lewy