Beaufort County announces layoffs

Published 11:05 am Thursday, March 26, 2009

By Staff
Thirteen jobs eliminated, seven vacancies slashed
Staff Writer
Beaufort County government is laying off 12 workers, effective June 12, as it seeks to close a yawning gap in its budget for the coming year.
The cuts represent about 5 percent of the county’s staff of more than 300 people.
Full-time employees will be cut in these county departments: health, animal control, facilities maintenance, economic development, emergency management, soil and water, tax and inspections.
One part-time employee in each of the soil and water, health and tax departments will be cut. Another eight vacant positions will be eliminated, Spruill said.
He said the cuts are unavoidable: “It’s not hyperbole. It’s not exaggeration. It’s just the truth.”
Dennis Modlin, a building inspector from Bath, will leave county employment just nine days shy of 16 years with the county.
Like other employees cut, Modlin was notified in an interview with Spruill.
Modlin said he wishes the county had raised permitting fees instead of cutting staff and thinks the cuts targeted only the lowest-paid employees.
Spruill said these will be the last layoffs for the foreseeable future, provided the state Legislature leaves state-lottery funds unmolested in next year’s budget, as Gov. Beverly Perdue has requested.
Perdue’s raid on the lottery fund this year cost the county more than $300,000. The county receives lottery funds to pay off a school-construction bond as part of an agreement with the Beaufort County Schools.
Commissioner Ed Booth said he thought the county should try to soften the cuts through furloughs, reduced hours or reduced wages.
Spruill countered that furloughs and four-day work weeks are not a good fit for a county government, because county revenues are one of the last things to rebound in an economy.
Commissioner Al Klemm agreed with Spruill.
Booth also criticized the county’s decision in recent years to go from 37.5 to 40 hours a week for employees and give employees what he called “hellacious” raises.
Employee pay went up because of extra hours and a 3 percent hourly hike.
Booth said he didn’t think the extra 2 1/2 hours each week improved county government’s public service.
Spruill said the employee wage and hour increases are important for county citizens and a valuable investment. They’re costly, he admitted, but not to the point of creating the current budget crunch, he said.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage supported the cuts, and said board members should begin looking for other cuts that can be made in the coming year, particularly donations to community groups that can be withheld.
Commissioner Hood Richardson agreed.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Beaufort County Building Inspector Brandon Hayes searches for a flood certificate Wednesday at the Department of Inspections. Hayes will keep his job, though the department will be affected by county layoffs announced Wednesday. (WDN Photo/Paul Dunn)