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Georgetown County: Staff cuts mirror decline in growth

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Declines in fees related to building and real estate were largely to blame for Georgetown County’s budget woes this year.

So it isn’t surprising that when the county eliminated 28 positions this month to balance the budget, the planning, building and zoning departments all took hits. The cuts left seven people without jobs, including two from those departments.

Of the remaining 21 positions cut, eight are already vacant, three are held by people expected to retire, five will become part-time and employees in five of the eliminated positions are being transferred to fill other vacancies.

The building department lost two positions that are currently filled and one person was left unemployed.

The chief building inspector job was eliminated. An additional building inspector was also cut, but that employee is expected to fill a vacancy in the stormwater department.

Two senior planners will be cut from the planning department, but one is expected to find a new job in the zoning department, where the zoning administrator is retiring.

That position will be replaced with one that will also encompass the duties of a senior planner.

The cuts won’t affect services, said County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

“From a building, zoning and planning standpoint, we had basically the same staff in those departments as we had two years ago, but the volume of work has dropped off and those departments were overstaffed,” Hemingway said.

The cuts come after a long battle to boost staff in the planning department. At one point in 2006, there were only two people in an office that was supposed to have six.

“For years we were short-handed,” said Jeff Kinard, chairman of the Planning Commission. He said he understands why the cuts were necessary, but “we hate to see anybody go. When we get this economy turned around, I just hope we can get restaffed as quickly as possible.”

The remainder of the eliminated positions were spread out over a number of departments.

Employees left without jobs include a clerk in the register of deeds office, a program assistant in the recreation department, a clerk in the assessor’s office and the grants administrator.

Three library positions were cut to part-time as were positions in the Bureau of Aging Services and recycling.

“None of these personnel decisions were based on the people in those positions,” Hemingway said.

“The decisions we made were not a reflection on the job anybody was doing, but what position we could do without and still not negatively affect the operation of the county.

“I can’t express how difficult those decisions were,” he added. “We feel heartfelt pain for all those affected.”

County Council is expected to give final reading to the budget Tuesday. Copies of the budget are at all county library branches.

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