BEDFORD - The Bedford County District Attorney's office suffered another setback Tuesday in a number-crunching effort by county commissioners to balance the budget.
District Attorney Bill Higgins and Prothonotary Cathy Fetter, who are both facing staffing cuts, expressed concerns over a lack of communication with county commissioners.
On Tuesday, Commissioners Gary Ebersole and Michael Herline voted to reduce clerical pay in the District Attorney's Office. That would take the department down to $301,000 from the proposed $312,000 in the budget, which has been on display since Dec. 1.
Commissioners will vote to adopt the budget on Tuesday.
The motion made by Ebersole was not on Tuesday's agenda, and Higgins was not aware of it beforehand.
"They never called me to discuss it. I'm in the middle of a trial trying to put a sex offender away and they do this when I'm not available," Higgins said, referring to the trial this week of Greg Gibbs, charged with sexual exploitation of children. "I think it highlights how personal it is."
"It would just be nice if they talked with us," Fetter said, adding that an attempt to meet with commissioners last week was unsuccessful.
She has proposed rolling furloughs in her office, with each employee taking one day off each week to try to save the job of one employee commissioners want to cut to save money. That measure would save the county about $22,000 from her department alone, in addition to $7,000 she cut from her budget.
"I really hope they consider that," she said. "That's a lot more than an employee."
Losing her employee would be a huge deal, Fetter said.
"We wouldn't be real good to function," she said. "The girls have all offered to do rolling furloughs. They sort of work together here like a family. ... This has made the morale in the office just rock bottom."
If the commissioners do not make a decision by Friday, Fetter said she would set up a salary board meeting vote for her department Tuesday, offering rolling furloughs in lieu of losing an employee.
Higgins already set up a salary board meeting for Tuesday to vote on the proposed cut of one of his assistant district attorneys. Higgins plans to make motions at that time to move Assistant District Attorney Brandi Hershey from full to part-time with no benefits, keep Assistant District Attorney Travis Livengood at full-time status and still run his office on the original $312,000.
"They might as well make it zero," Higgins said of his department's budget. "Every bill I get, I'll submit to the county and they'll pay it. The first bill that they don't pay, they'll be sued and the first person in my office that they don't pay, they'll be sued. It's a joke. These guys are a joke."
Higgins said the commissioners' proposal to cut one of his staff is "at the expense of public safety."
"They're more interested in getting even with me than protecting the public," he said, referring to what he called ongoing personal and political attacks on him by Herline. "We'll vote on this on Dec. 22 and they will employ the staff that the salary board approves then."
The county budget will be voted on Tuesday. No millage has yet been set, as commissioners say they are waiting for the county's reassessment figures to be finalized by next week.