To paraphrase an old lawyer joke, what do you call 100 bureaucrats at the bottom of the ocean?
Answer: A good start.
The same can be said, though perhaps with a touch more seriousness, about Columbia County's recent effort to streamline county government in the face of shrinking budgets: It's a good start.
As Deputy County Administrator Scott Johnson told News Editor Donnie Fetter, "If we can do the same job with less, then certainly we want to try and do that."
To that end, the county's government recently folded some of its operations into more-compact divisions for a savings of several hundred thousand dollars by eliminating mostly managerial positions.
Of course, most of this effort was done to make lemons from lemonade; the county has been hit in recent months with some uncomfortable resignations among top-level staff - from Planning Director Jeff Browning to Management Services Director Todd Glover.
To the county's credit, though, it didn't just self-perpetuate the bureaucratic status quo by merely filling the vacant positions. Instead, county officials seized the opportunity to shift managerial duties and provide services with fewer chiefs.
Couple these actions with the county school system's plan to creatively shuffle teaching positions as state funding shrinks, and it's clear Columbia County's leaders are getting out front of state budget problems that haven't yet hit bottom.
The next step must be for our local lawmakers to take the lessons of Columbia County's baby-steps toward frugality to the upcoming Georgia legislative session.
Columbia County is showing the way toward belt-tightening; our lawmakers should make sure the rest of the state gets it, too.
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