Jeffco Commission hires group to solve financial troubles

By Alan Collins

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to hire a Dallas, Texas based company to help solve its financial troubles.

FTI has experience with governments with debt problems; the company assisted Orange County California through its bankruptcy and says they are prepared to examine the Jefferson County government and come with a number of recommendations. First, they say they can help to right-size county government even with the county keeping $70 million from the occupational tax. Second, they will have a plan to downsize county government if the county loses the job tax. Third, they can prepare the county for bankruptcy if the tax cannot be replaced.

"We've seen a lot of tough situations. We've done thousands and thousands of restructurings without a court and where you need to be in a court setting." Bob Medlin with FTI said.

Medlin told commissioners the first phase would be developing those plans. The second phase would be implementing one of those plans.

County commissioners say bankruptcy must remain an option.

"The bankruptcy component is critical. We must have plan in place if we are going to pull that trigger," Jefferson Co. Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said.

There has been some criticism of the commissioners for hiring an outside consultant for recommendations for solving their financial crisis which the county could do themselves.

"What they have got is manpower. We don't have time. Could we do it on our own with a county manager? I'm sure but it would take time," Jefferson Co. Commissioner David Carrington said.

County commissioners say if the Supreme Court rules against reinstating the job tax, the county will not have a lot of time.

"The main thing is the time factor. The time factor involved is the county runs out of money the last week in July." Stephens said.

FTI will be paid $35,000 for the first phase to develop the plans. Recommendations are expected in a few weeks.

The Alabama Supreme Court is expected to rule soon if the occupational tax is legal or not.

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