Collins: more layoffs may be ahead

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said Wednesday some county employees may lose their jobs in the coming year because of funding problems.

Collins spoke to FOX6 News on the eve of the new 2010 fiscal year, which begins Thursday. Earlier this month, commissoners passed a $808 million budget for the new fiscal year, which is $28 million less than the previous year.

"Making ends meet," Collins said. "As in any family, you have to make sure you are careful with your spending and you stay within your budget."

The budget includes revenue anticipated from the county's new occupational tax, which takes effect January 1, 2010.  The state legislature in August approved the new tax and authorized the county to collect and spend money collected under the old tax, which was declared unconstitutional in January.  Money from that tax remains tied up in court.

The county commission is also trying to land a line of credit with Regions Bank. So far there is no word when that will happen.

More than 700 county employees were placed on administrative leave without pay in August as part of the commission's plan to balance its budget without the occupational tax.  Those employees are scheduled to return to a 32-hour work week on October 10 and satellite courthouses in Homewood and Centerpoint are scheduled to reopen October 17.

Commissioner Bobby Humphryes, who oversees the county's Roads and Transportation Department, said Wednesday not all road projects will be back on schedule.

"We will  have to prioritize," Humphryes said. "There will be very little equipment bought this year."

Not all departments will remain fully staffed. Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale is planning to put 46 deputies on leave without pay on Thursday after the county commission voted to cut $10 million from his budget.  Of the 46 deputies, 20 will transfer to the Birmingham Police Department.

Commissioner William Bell said the sheriff and other county departments need funding help.

"I've asked the commission to make the sheriff and coroner's office a priority for additional revenues," Bell said. "Either through a loan or increased revenues from the occupational tax."