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Jackson County leaders, agencies, discuss future in light of looming cuts

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JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- Jackson County officials are discussing what's next for the county and this week, briefed county employees on what to expect in light of a failed one cent sales tax increase vote.

This week budget discussions are at the forefront for several Jackson County leaders. Tuesday county employees heard about what kind of cuts they might be seeing in the near future. "An update of where we're headed, how those cuts are going to be made, how those cuts look like they're going to be affecting the employees through cutting hours or possible closure of the courthouse," Commission Chair Matthew Hodges says.

Hodges says all of that is still under discussion and the details aren't concrete.

The one cent sales tax increase was meant to help a budget deficit and decreasing funding. It was voted down last week.

Hodges says they're looking to plan B of sorts, and that means budget cuts and changes.

Some possible actions in discussion are a ten percent cut for county employees, closing the courthouse early one day a week for a while to prevent overtime, and cutting appropriations to agencies like libraries, fire departments, and rescue squads. "A couple of small things we'll see immediately, almost all the changes though will come October first," Hodges says.

In the midst of it all, county leaders aren't just thinking about paying bills, they're thinking about a savings account. "It's not about just balancing the budget," Hodges says, "It's about pursuing the future of Jackson County."

Hodges says agencies across the county will feel the cuts.

"We were informed that we have to cut our budget $225,000.00," Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips says.

Sheriff Phillips says now they're working to figure out how. "We've got options of laying people off, cutting hours back," he says.

Those are just that though - options.

Aspects of the agency like the clean up crew will most likely be cut. "We're just going to have to cut everywhere we can cut," Sheriff Phillips says.

The county is one of Alabama's largest, and the department is already very understaffed. "We're going to have a car or two out there every minute of every day but right now, we try to have four cars to cover this big county. It may be that we only have two cars," Sheriff Phillips says.

Nothing is concrete yet as it is still early.

Sheriff Phillips says they're looking at every option knowing now what has to be done, and looking to what is the best move for the situation.