Charlotte County rethinks cuts
After hundreds of layoffs and years of budget tightening, Charlotte County government understands the old adage of “doing more with less.” But officials are beginning to acknowledge that, in some cases, less isn’t always better.
In the years since the county began a concerted effort to slash spending, the county has reduced its workforce by a little less than a third, according to Charlotte County Budget Director Gordon Burger. In 2008, when the county started laying off workers, there were about 1,400 employees, Burger said. Today, there are roughly 1,000. And that’s because, after doing a needs assessment, officials came to the conclusion that there are certain positions that the county just can’t afford to do without.
Last month, the County Commission approved a $517.2 million net budget that includes about $194,000 in salary and benefits for a part-time film director ($27,681), a full-time network security specialist ($80,939) and a full-time recreation manager ($85,048), a position that was axed in fiscal year 2009-2010 and is now being brought back.
“It’s one of those things where we cut and cut and cut, and we probably cut a little too far in some of these areas,” Burger said. “In that stretch between 2008 when they first started making cuts and 2010, they cut 14 positions out of (information technology), and we’ve been doing OK, but things get more sophisticated and security just becomes more and more of an issue. Every job is being done by somebody, but we’re spread so thin.”
In addition to the three positions created for the upcoming fiscal year, three code enforcement positions had been previously brought back in prior budget cycles to fill in the gaps created by layoffs, Burger said. Other positions approved in the past that hadn’t existed before, but that officials decided were needed, include an energy coordinator and a security coordinator. The energy coordinator finds ways of making the county more energy-efficient, and the security coordinator assesses safety in county facilities, Burger explained.
Still, even with the new positions, the number of workers the county employs today is far less than the peak levels of a few years ago.
“We went from 1,400 down to 1,200 down to 1,100 and again we’re down to 1,001 positions,” Burger said. “So even with creating three new positions (this year) we’re still seeing an overall decline.”
But officials say that the hiring being done today is more strategic than had been in the past. Much more emphasis is being given to positions that can bring in revenue for the county.
Interim Community Services Director Andy Stevens said the recreation manager position is one that has been “refocused” to include not just responsibilities for day-to-day operations, but also to develop strategies to recruit revenue-generating tournaments to Charlotte County and help promote the facilities.
“We feel we have other capacities from a tournament perspective that this position could bring to Charlotte County,” Stevens said.