Though Columbia County officials intend to limit funds for pay increases next fiscal year, they did assign more than $300,000 for new hires during a budget study session last week.
After severe state cuts, county officials trimmed this year's budget and initiated a hiring freeze.
A $56.97 million proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year includes about $314,000 for 10 new employees, mostly for public safety.
The sheriff's office is requesting $6,240 for a school crossing guard, while the 911 center needs about $134,000 for four employees.
Clerk of Court Cindy Mason had asked for $104,000 to hire three employees, but she now intends to phase in those new hires over the course of the year, which will reduce her payroll needs.
The county's Water Utility also wants two new employees at a cost of about $70,000.
Though officials will beef up police and court rosters, they worked to cut expenses for fire protection. With help from Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue, county officials managed to eliminate about $507,000 from the proposed budget. Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue agreed to limit merit raises to 2 percent and reduce its operating expenses by $65,000.
Other changes discussed included the addition of $15,000 to compensate commissioners for travel, a reduction from 4 percent to 2 percent for employee merit raises, the elimination of a $100,000 e-mail archiving system and a reduction of nearly $8,000 for the county's Development Authority.
Also, raises will be tied to performance evaluations, said Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson. The most that employees can receive is 2 percent.
Re-examining how the county funds the Augusta Judicial Circuit also could alter the budget even more. The three counties in the circuit -- Columbia, Richmond and Burke -- fund the Superior Court based on population. Officials might consider funding based on caseload or an average of the two.
The proposed overall budget represents a 0.28 percent increase from the current fiscal plan.
Commissioners intend to discuss the budget further Tuesday, and are scheduled to approve it on June 2.
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