Commission looking for ways to save money

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners are again looking for ways to save money.

The work comes after Monday when Montgomery Judge Charles Price listened to arguments about dismissing a lawsuit challenging the county's new occupational tax which went into effect in January. The lawsuit concerns Jefferson Co. Commission president Bettye Fine Collins.

"If we lose this new occupational tax, we will have to move on without the $70 million and try to live without it," Collins said. "The county can't fight this forever."

Jefferson Co. officials will get a mid-year update later this week. Commissioner Jim Carns says the county needs to prepare for the worst by creating a reserve fund with cash up to $44 million.

"I think we have to have reserve fund because if we hit what we hit last summer without a reserve fund, we hit panic mode," Carns said. "We had to move quickly."

Last year the county put hundreds of county workers on administrative leave without pay and created a backlog at county courthouses. Commissioner Bobby Humphryes says he is prepared to cut his roads and transportation department.

"If we have to do up to five percent cut, we could do it without layoffs," Humphryes said. "That is my main concern. Keeping everybody and keep our department as normal."

The Alabama Supreme Court will decide if the county has to refunds up t $50 million to workers who paid the job tax last year.
Commissioner Shelia Smoot called on the attorneys who get legal fees off of the refunds to share the wealth.

"If they win, they will take their 20-to-40 percent off the top and split the rest with the taxpayers they claim they work for and I think that is unreasonable," Smoot said.

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