Health Dept. workers forced to take 10 days without pay

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) -  It's not something they wanted to do but rather something the economy has dictated.

In their monthly meeting Wednesday, board members for the Columbus Health Department voted to implement a series of furlough days.

"Due to a lot of funding decreases-state funding and so forth-the writing was on the wall that we had to meet that budget shortfall so we're hoping to accomplish that with just 10 furlough days," said Dr. Banks Carroll, Chairman of the Board.

Some staff members fall under the state budget and have been furloughed for the past two years but for local board of health employees, it's the first time they will have to take days without pay.

Board members estimate the move will save more than $200,000 in a tight budget.

"We didn't want to lose staff. We think it's very important to have the staff that we have so regrettably we had to look at implementing a furlough plan to address budget shortfalls because we required to have a balanced budget," District Program Manager Ed Saidla said.

So how will it work? The board agreed that instead of staggering employees off days and limiting services it would be better to shut down all Health Department operations on the designated furlough days- one day a month for 10 months.

"In order to keep all of our employees and not cut any jobs. The furlough plan is the most palatable for all of us," Dr. Carroll said.

"We'll continue to provide outstanding quality service. We regret that we're at this point but we're very fortunate that we've been able to not have to do furloughs prior to this time," Saidla added.

The furlough days are expected to go into effect this coming September but the actual day of the month the Health Department will be closed has not yet been decided.

Once the schedule is set, Health Department officials say they'll give the public ample notice and you can trust WXTX to post the closings both on the air and our web site.