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Fayette to skim $2 million from pension fund

Turning tables, former Commissioner Hearn gigs commission on budget

To help balance its 2013-2014 budget, the Fayette County Commission is dipping into the overfunded pension plan for county retirees.

The county is taking about $2 million from the fund and recapturing it for this year’s budget, County Administrator Steve Rapson said at the June 13 commission meeting.

That move was criticized by former county commissioner Lee Hearn, who said such actions are tantamount to deficit spending and also against the recommendation of the expert firm hired to ensure the long-term financial stability of the plan.

The budget is not requiring a property tax rate increase and it is projected to add $728,964 to the county’s reserve fund by the end of the year, bringing it up to $33.48 million.

While the county is eliminating the Marshal’s Department and 11 positions, six of those employees are being transfered to other county departments to fill similar duties at the sheriff’s office, in code enforcement and at the water system.

The budget also adds two new positions: a systems analyst employee in information systems and also an assistant water plant director for the water system as required by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

To reap the savings of the county’s early retirement program that was offered last year, the county s eliminating 22 full-time equivalent positions in the budget on top of the 18 positions eliminated in the retirement program.

Hearn was also critical of the commission’s opposition to the stormwater utility fee system for the unincorporated county in favor of a two-year countywide sales tax instead.

“It wasn’t long ago Steve Brown was preaching the evils of SPLOST,” Hearn said.

Hearn also noted that the county moved its stormwater employees back into the general fund instead of being paid for by the utility fund created last year by the commission. In moving the employees, the department was renamed to “environmental compliance,” a move that Hearn said was explicitly to hide the funding switch.

Hearn was also critical of the county not replacing all 12 sheriff’s vehicles that were sought by the sheriff’s department due to high mileage. Later, Rapson noted that a fleet manager evaluates all the vehicles individually and determines which ones should be replaced and which ones may remain in service.

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