At his Wednesday night town-hall meeting regarding Cobb’s $31 million budget deficit, Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott repeatedly touched upon a common sentiment.
"What we have to do once again is make sure we are using our assets as efficiently as possible,’’ Ott said. “You have to look at the cost of the services being provided, and are we giving something away because we just can't afford to do that anymore.''
Apparently County Chairman Tim Lee agrees. The Marietta Daily Journal is reporting in Friday’s edition that Lee will be recommending cuts across the board when the Board of Commissioners meets Tuesday to approve a plan to close the budget deficit in the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
If approved, the closings would take place on May 1.
The MDJ also reported that Lee will recommend the county’s overall millage be raised from 9.6 to 10.1; that county department budgets be cut by 3.5 percent; and that some county employees could lose their jobs.
Said Ott: “As far as I’m concerned, we can only provide what we can afford.”
Which with each passing day appears to be less and less.
The tax increase would defy the consensus the commission reached March 22 after a budget work session, when only West Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham spoke in favor of considering raising taxes.
Ott held two town-hall meetings on the budget in the past week and a half and did not waver in his opposition to a tax increase. In both town hall meetings, Ott floated the idea of alternating opening days for libraries, but he did not talk about closing branches.
He said he spent Wednesday going through the budget suggestions submitted by the public, “and by far the most comments are on libraries. I would say generally the comments are that during these hard economic times, it's where people can go look for jobs, get on the Internet. There are a lot of services and I think the board recognizes that.”
Helen Poyer, the director of the Cobb County Public Library System, sent out an e-mail message Thursday to library supporters, urging them to lobby commissioners to protect the libraries. Ironically, a note on the Cobb library site notes that next week, April 10-16, is National Library Week.
The board is under no obligation to enact Lee’s plan but needs to take some kind of action on the budget Tuesday.
One option to attack the deficit is to furlough the county’s 4,239 full-time workers, rather than giving each department the option to decide how to cut a certain amount. Each furlough day is worth $671,871 for the general fund, Finance Director James Pehrson said last month.
To put that in perspective, two furlough days would save about the same amount of money as closing the 13 libraries for five months.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch will cover the Board of Commissioners’ meeting live at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
- Patch Regional Editor Michael Jacobs contributed to this story.