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Jefferson County budget has pay raises, cuts for arts

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Jefferson County’s proposed $660 million budget for next year — down some $27 million from a year ago — includes pay raises and reduces spending for cultural programs, among other cutbacks.

The County Commission votes Tuesday on the budget that must be adopted by Oct. 1.

The 2008 proposal includes a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for employees. Some workers also qualify for a 5 percent merit raise under the Personnel Board system that provides annual raises as employees move through the 10 pay steps in their job classifications.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said the proposed cuts will eliminate a previously projected $30 million shortfall and leave the county with a projected $4 million surplus.

“This has been done equitably and across the board,” Collins said Thursday.

Describing the budget proposal as “well thought-out and considered, given our circumstances,” Collins said 2008 will be a “tough year for everybody.”

Budget Management Office Director Tracie Hodge said the county has about 800 vacant positions, and about half will be frozen for fiscal 2008.

Budget cuts

Cuts in the budget include:

  • $18 million in vacant positions, including $3 million in the sheriff’s office.

  • $250,000 per commissioner in district discretionary funds.

  • $5 million for the Jefferson County Community Arts Fund.

    The arts fund, administered by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, began as a three-year initiative in fiscal 2005 and helps fund organizations such as the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Zoo, as well as many smaller arts groups.

    The spending plan also reduces overtime 40 percent countywide, saving about $4 million, and reduces staff development 20 percent for all departments, saving about $300,000, Hodge said.

    Calling the cuts too deep and rash, Commissioner Shelia Smoot said she’s uncomfortable voting on the budget without state and independent audits from the past two fiscal years.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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