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Chatham Commissioners make moves that save county taxpayers $450,000 a year

Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - During its regular meeting on January 3, 2010, a majority of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved several actions to reduce county budget expenses and streamline operations for a total savings approximately $2 million over the next four years plus a savings of an estimated $275,000 in the current budget year.

The actions include eliminating four staff positions, including the director of the Department of Sustainable Communities Development and the director of the Office of Human Relations. Two of the four eliminated positions have not yet been filled: a health educator position addressing obesity and a resource conservation manager. All four positions were approved in the past four years.

“Any decisions affecting people who have worked very hard on behalf of Chatham County are very difficult to make. This action is not about the quality of the employees’ work or their achievements,” said Commissioner Chairman Brian Bock. “However, most of the commissioners feel that the current economic situation compels us to take a closer look at positions that are discretionary and not critical to providing to key services.”

Bock said, “The majority of the board feels that we need to be especially careful with taxpayers’ money given the current economy and what we may be facing with expected state budget cuts. We also feel that county management can work with remaining staff to restructure and streamline the land use functions, including planning, permitting and related functions so that these services are not negatively impacted by this action.”

Commissioners also voted to cut costs by delaying a consultant’s update of the land use plan and halting the county’s funding of Chapel Hill Transit’s Pittsboro Express bus route. No additional county funding is required to continue the transit service until June 30, but the majority agreed to discontinue the service at that time.

Vice Chairman Walter Petty said, “We are supportive of public transit, but we need to find more efficient, cost-effective options to meet these needs. We have asked the management team to explore options to meet identified future needs, including working with Chatham Transit on how they might help fill gaps.”

Petty added, “The Pittsboro Express has been slow in developing consistent ridership and we are concerned that it will never have enough riders to pay for itself. The silver lining is that we may have an opportunity to strengthen Chatham Transit, which already provides a variety of transit services throughout the Chatham County.”

Bock said that making the decision at this time gives nearly six months notice to Pittsboro Express, riders and others involved. “It also gives us time to explore alternatives with Chatham Transit.”

In delaying a contract for a consultant to help the county update its land use plan, Commissioner Pam Stewart said that the county can save $300,000 over the next two years. “It is premature to move forward with the updated plan at this time. We will have further discussions as a full board and work with staff on this issue to determine when and if we need to move forward.”

The land use plan motion passed unanimously after clarification that the motion was to delay the plan update, not permanently eliminate it.

Chairman Bock said that the board would continue to look for other cost-savings measures in the coming months, especially during the budget development process.

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Chatham Commissioners make moves that save county taxpayers $450,000 a year
Three new commissioners were sworn in at the end of last year.

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