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Public facilities: If budget is cut, number of services will decline
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Faced with two options - raise taxes or slash services - Bulloch County Commissioners asked department heads Thursday what would happen if their budget was cut by 10 or 20 percent.
    Public Facilities Director Bob Smith had a simple answer: recycling facilities would close or have limited availability, there would be fewer employees available to pick up refuse from Dumpsters, and trash would pile up across the county.
    With more and more people coming into Bulloch County, the demand for solid waste services is on the rise. Eliminating or lessening services wouldn't be an acceptable option, he said.
    "The volume of solid waste is not going to lessen," he said during a workshop Thursday where department heads discussed budget needs with commissioners. "It's just going to increase."
    With 16 recycling centers and 35 unmanned dump sites (around 75 Dumpsters) throughout the county, Smith and his crews stay busy trying to keep the county orderly.
    Commissioners asked department heads whether their budgets could be cut. Smith said if his recommended budget of $1,143,500  (including a supplemental request of $2,500) were sliced by 10 percent, it would mean losing part time workers. That would result in shutting down recycling centers or limiting the days they are open.
    If the budget were cut by 20 percent, layoffs would be necessary, and citizens would see trash piling up at the Dumpster sites, he said.
    Smith's budget covers more than payroll. Maintenance of the recycling center sites as well as the 75-plus Dumpster containers costs money. So does the equipment and vehicles used to transfer the waste.
    He told commissioners he is faced with more repairs and maintenance, including buildings that need renovations within the upcoming year.
    The solid waste/recycling budget also covers the cost of transporting trash to the county landfill, which is actually just a transfer station, he said. The waste is relocated to a landfill in Wayne County, and Smith must pay tippage fees from his budget. Those costs make up about 35 percent of his total budget, he said.
    But the sale of recyclable material brings in revenue, which means less money that must come out of the general fund, he said. "About 35 percent of the expense comes back in revenue from the sale of recyclables."
    Rental income from construction companies and other entities that lease refuse containers is placed back into the budget as well, he said.
    "We have a significant amount of money that comes back and is not a transfer from general funds," Smith said.
    A great deal of work goes into keeping the county's garbage picked up. Employees are kept busy covering the large county,  with some crews clearing the Dumpster locations and others picking up the separated refuse from the recycling centers.
    Other crews also visit the Dumpster sites and retrieve large items that people do not throw into the Dumpsters such as appliances and furniture.
    The recycling centers require employees to supervise citizens dumping trash and to maintain the separate containers, making sure items are placed in the correct receptacles, he said.
    Smith requested the supplemental funds to help cover costs of repairs and renovations of the recycling centers and other buildings of which he is responsible, he said.
    In fiscal year 2004, the county's solid waste budget was $920,325. The budget dipped in 2005 to $918,951, but rose the following fiscal year to $1,112,918.
    This year, fiscal year 2007, the solid waste budget was $1,070, 000. Smith said the increase to the recommended budget will fund the necessary repairs, new containers, and building renovations necessary to maintain the level of service to Bulloch County's citizens as well as absorb the additional fuel costs and the impact of the county's increasing demand for service.
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