After being hit with a reduction of $700,000 in the county highway department this week, Putnam County Commissioners voted not to replace any county employee who quits or is fired from their position effective May 18.
The hiring freeze was the suggestion of county council member Nancy Fogle. Several county council members were in the audience at the commissioners meeting and noted they would also review the suggestion for the council at their Tuesday evening's meeting.
Commissioners also disclosed they had been notified by the state of the reduction in county highway funds of $700,000.
"We're doing everything we can to keep from laying anybody off at the highway department," said board president Gene Beck.
The group considered laying off 13 positions in an executive session prior to their regular session Monday night but found other ways to cut expenses.
"It still would have cost us $130,000 in unemployment to do that," said Kristina Warren. "Five positions have remained vacant at the highway department for several years in an effort to save money as well."
One member in the audience questioned what commissioners would do if a whole department walked off their job.
"If half of a department goes out then the supervisor can come before the commissioners and ask for an exemption," said Warren. "They can come in front of the commissioners for an emergency."
Commissioners make the recommendations for people to fill county positions and the county council as the budget holder approves them.
Commissioners are looking for cost cutting measures and ways to bring additional funds to a budget that continues to be whacked by the state.
One effective stream of income for the county is the sale of property with delinquent taxes.
First Deputy Sharon Freeman in the Putnam County Treasurer's Office told the Banner Graphic that courtesy letters have been sent to persons with delinquencies warning them of the possibility of being placed on the sale list.
There has not been a tax sale in the county since 2005, despite the fact that state law requires a sale at least once a year.
Freeman said the treasurer's office is planning on having a tax sale later this year.
"We want to get back to having the sales once a year. There have been so many changes to the law. Now, you can have them at different times. The property has to be publicized for three consecutive weeks before the sale and there are only so many days for them to be certified for the sale list," said Freeman.
"This sale will be huge when it happens. I think there are over 700 properties on the list right now. The last sale we had brought in millions of dollars," commented Warren.
"We've lost a lot of revenue over the last few years by not having the sale," she continued.
County Auditor Stephanie Campbell commented that letters had been mailed out to delinquent property owners and that some people had paid their bills.