By Alan Collins
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Is Jefferson County top heavy with salaries? Jefferson County Commissioner Bobby Humphryes thinks so. "I think all departments are top heavy. We can think about eliminating positions. Eliminate the need to lay off laborers and lower salaries the next time we have budget problems," Humphryes said.
Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says the county could be facing another financial crisis, especially if the county loses a legal fight over its new occupation tax and business license fee. "We got to get every department head to look at its operation and head to a smaller operation," Collins said.
Tax collections are down for Jefferson County by three percent for the year. There is no crisis yet, but commissioners doubt there will be merit pay raises this year. "Do you want your regular job or a merit pay raise? If you get a merit pay raise now you could be laid off in six months," said Shelia Smoot, Jefferson Co. Commissioner.
In Montgomery, the Jefferson County House delegation took up a bill which would revamp the county commission. It would set up a county council, with a chief executive elected countywide and then hire a county manager. Trussville Rep. Owen Drake is sponsoring the bill. "We would have check and balances built in. The system we have now has no check and balances," Drake said.
The delegation wanted more questions answered about the bill before voting on it. "I'm concerned the county manager and executive have not a requirement for training on experience. That could be a disaster," Rep. Demetrius Newton said. Drake believes he can address the lawmakers concerns and pass the measure. Commissioner Shelia Smoot does not believe the bill is needed.