Alabama’s Jefferson County Cuts Jobs to Stay Solvent


By Martin Z. Braun and Kathleen Edwards

June 30 (Bloomberg) — Alabama’s most populous county will cut as many as 200 employees, amounting to almost 7 percent of the workforce, after the state Supreme Court rejected its bid to spend occupational taxes while it appeals a lower-court ruling striking down the levy.

Jefferson County commissioners agreed, 4-0, to slash another $31.7 million from the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The county previously cut $38 million on June 16, closing satellite courthouses and stopping road maintenance for 31 towns. The sheriff filed a motion in state circuit court today to block $5.1 million of cuts to its office.

“It is both mind boggling and sleep depriving to make these decisions that affect families, but we have to keep the county solvent,” said commissioner Bobby Humphreys, a Republican.

Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, the state’s largest city, moved closer to insolvency after Alabama’s Supreme Court said last week that it couldn’t spend the money from an occupational tax, which accounts for about 35 percent of its budget.

The tax, struck down by a lower-court earlier this year on constitutional grounds, provides about $75 million annually. Jefferson County has struggled to pay its bills after Wall Street’s financial tumult caused borrowing costs on more than $3 of adjustable-rate bonds to soar.

Budget Hearings

The county, which employs more than 3,000 people, will hold budget hearings on July 6 for the coming fiscal year, said commission president Bettye Fine Collins. She said the county might cut up to 1,000 jobs if the Legislature doesn’t restore the occupational tax.

State Senator Rodger Smitherman, a Democrat, invited commissioners to a meeting tomorrow with the county’s state legislative delegation to discuss the occupational tax and the county’s budget crisis.

In an e-mail to Collins, a Smitherman aide asked the county to identify alternate taxes that might be used to provide services, and ideas to improve efficiency and financial oversight.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale petitioned a circuit court judge for a temporary restraining order barring the county from cutting his budget. Hale said the planned budget cuts, the second-most of any county department, were arbitrary and would cause “immediate and irreparable harm.”

If the reductions are allowed, the sheriff won’t be able to properly staff the jail, feed and clothe prisoners and fight crime.

“The cuts proposed would result in putting Sheriff Hale in a position that he would be in violation of his duties under state and federal law,” Hale said in an 18-page filing.

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One Response

  1. […] Alabama’s Jefferson County Cuts Jobs to Stay Solvent […]

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