Supervisors Look To Save Money

A new study into the efficiency of Harrison County government is expected by the end of January and some supervisors hope some action will be taken on it. ``I think it's time that the Harrison County Board of Supervisors gets the facts about efficiency in government and takes those facts and makes executive decisions for the betterment of Harrison County, and politics be damned,'' said Supervisor Connie Rockco, who pushed for the $27,000 study.

Supervisors have discussed the need for streamlining county government and spending. In the summer, in working on the $96.2 million budget, supervisors agreed they found county government has rapidly grown even as cities have taken over large amounts of territory through annexation. Supervisors proposed cuts here and there. The reductions got bogged down by board politics and lobbying from county workers who feared losing their jobs. The result was only a minuscule tax cut and a ``hiring freeze'' that has kept about 30 or so vacant county positions empty. A few vacancies for jobs the board has deemed critical have been filled.

Rockco and board President Larry Benefield have pushed for privatization of some county operations, including the maintenance of the sand beach. Their efforts have failed to gain support of other supervisors. Benefield doubts whether a study will result in increased government efficiency or spending cuts. In 1989, he said the county conducted a comprehensive efficiency study, the recommendations of which were mostly ignored. Benefield also doubts the new study will be comprehensive enough to supply concrete recommendations. ``We could have taken that same 1989 study, updated it and saved $27,000 on this one,'' Benefield said. ``After we do this study, what then? After we spent a lot of time and effort looking at privatization of sand beach, the board voted not to even look at what prices companies could offer. ``I hate to sound pessimistic, because I still plan to push for things that will help us run more cost effectively, but I'm not sure it's going to result in anything other than another study to put on the shelf,'' he said.

Supervisors during budget sessions ordered county administrative workers to make suggestions about ways to cut spending and staff. ``But not one suggestion has come, that I recall,'' Benefield said.