Cuts, Layoffs Face Harrison County

Harrison County's $102 million budget is shared by 172 departments. That money comes from property taxes only because the county doesn't get sales taxes. With so many properties destroyed, the collections will be way down.

"We're in very trying times as far as the county goes with so much of our tax base lost," beach director Bobby Weaver says.

Weaver is losing $238,000 He runs his department on $1.6 million. He won't replace the four workers who didn't come back after the hurricane.

"The workload on us for the next six to nine months may not be as much as it has been in previous years, you know. So much of our work has been on Highway 90, with so much reconstruction going on. So we're able to work with a smaller workforce and do the things that we need to do for the next year or so."

Supervisor Connie Rockco says all the departments will have to do more with less.

"We cannot incur or would not incur, in my opinion, a tax increase on our citizens at this point, so the thing to do is we just have to cut the budget to the bare bones. This year is going to be bad, but next year will be worse. It will be worse and we have to prepare ourselves for that," she says.

No department got priority over another and with the sheriff's department's budget being the biggest, cuts are expected to be deep. The county administrator estimates the sheriff will have to trim about $2.7 million.

"In fact the last week we've been looking at several different options. The one thing I can promise the people of Harrison County is we're not going to let the public safety be affected. We're not going to let the deputy on the street be affected. We're looking at every other option we can at the present time," Sheriff George Payne says.

No one wants to talk about who might lose their job because of the county budget crisis. But some department heads say there will more than likely be some layoffs.

Sheriff Payne says Congress could be the salvation law enforcement needs. He says an emergency appropriation is expected before Christmas that would go to departments in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.