The commissioners' four-day furlough plan marks the first time county employees have been directly affected by the almost two-year-long battle against budget cuts, but it is not without problems.
Under the plan, the county's 611 full-time employees will not be paid for two holidays -- Good Friday (April 17) and Memorial Day (May 25) -- that are usually paid, and most will be required to take two additional unpaid days off.
Budget problems must be solved. Revenue is down, and the state continues to slash local aid.
The commissioners say the furloughs will have little impact on county services and will save perhaps $230,000.
I'm confident the commissioners, their department heads and finance director will be up to the task of guiding Carroll County through the current economic crisis.
But are furloughs the answer?
We need to examine closely the consequences of county furloughs and determine which workers would be affected.
Take the courts, for example.
Carroll's State's Attorney's Office is funded by the county. The Public Defender's Office, the Clerk's Office and the judges all are subsidized by the state, thus exempting them from a county furlough.
The commissioners have suggested that the furlough days be rotated so the state court system would not be shut down for any length of time.
For state workers, Good Friday is a "floating holiday," which means that not all employees in a division receive a holiday thatday. Some would work Good Friday and be off another day of their choosing.
While May 25 is a state holiday and would not create any overlapping of service problems, a county shutdown on Good Friday wouldhamper the work of state employees who would find their Carroll counterparts unavailable.
The wheels of justice already turn slowly. Let's not have them grind to a halt for even one day.
Another area to consider is county schools, where the Board of Education has been asked to cut about $1.9 million from its budget.
However, school employees may not have to accept furloughs, as other money-saving options are being discussed. Is this fair to county employees not employed by the school board?
If the furloughs are to save money, the commissioners must carefully examine personnel policy and not allow county employees to use accrued compensatory time or work overtime the week before the furloughs to recoup lost wages. If such guidelines are not put in place, any savings would be lost.
Have less disruptive options been explored? Have our county commissioners been in contact with their counterparts in other jurisdictions for brain-storming sessions? Perhaps other cost-saving ideas are being implemented in othercounties that could work here.
Our elected officials must be opento new solutions that may come their way.
The old idea of raisingtaxes is no longer acceptable. In a recession-plagued economy, we cannot tolerate another tax increase from any municipal, county or state government.
Government must allow individuals the freedom to spend as they choose, which will have the effect of pumping their dollars into our local and state economies.
Also unacceptable is expecting some employees to take unpaid days when not all employees will have to.
The answers will not come easily. The decisions will be difficult. But making difficult decisions in difficult times is the responsibility of elected officials.
Write: Letters to the editor, The Carroll County Sun, 15 E. Main St., Westminster, 21157-5052.