Revised Budget Plan Includes Rental-Only Amphitheatre & 10 Percent Departmental Budget Cuts
The Cobb County commissioners approved a revised budget plan that will help close the $31 million budget deficit by reducing library hours, making the Barnes Amphitheatre a rental-only facility and cutting each county department budget by at least 10 perc
The Barnes Amphitheatre, named for former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, will become a rental-only facility as part of the revised budget plan, which goes into effect on May 1. The Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved the plan on Tuesday with a 4-1 vote, with northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham casting the dissenting vote.
All county employees, including public safety personnel, will be required to take five furlough days as part of the amended plan to help close the more than $31 million budget deficit for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.
Almost all county departments will experience 10 percent budget cuts. However, the Cobb County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department will see a budget cut of more than 10 percent. South Cobb has more county parks than any other part of the county, including the Mable House complex, which is currently operated by the department.
South Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson said he is uncertain how the rental-only change for the amphitheatre will affect the annual summer Candlelite Concert Series at the facility.
The concert series is run by the South Cobb Arts Alliance, which rents the facility at a “deeply discounted” rate, said SCAA President Derek Nowatzki.
Although the amphitheatre will now be a rental-only facility, Thompson said the county will remain responsible for the maintenance of the venue.
Although South Cobb Regional Library was one of the four libraries in Commission Chairman Tim Lee’s initial budget plan to remain open. Now all libraries will remain open, but will reduce operating hours.
A significant number of the estimated standing-room only crowd of 300 in the boardroom on Tuesday were wearing red paper hearts that read, "I love my library." Since it launched late Friday afternoon, the "Save Cobb Libraries" Facebook page has generated more than 3,000 "likes" and Lee said Tuesday the board has received more than 5,000 emails against closing the libraries.
The “Save Cobb Libraries” administrator posted on its site after the revised budget was approved Tuesday, “Thank you to everyone who wrote an email, attended the meeting, told someone about the proposed cuts, stood in protest, or participated in conversations about this issue. It will no doubt be an ongoing discussion, and hopefully you will remain engaged.’’
While none of the libraries will close, they will have to accommodate $422,000 in cuts that will likely result in further reductions in opening hours.
A key element of the plan, in addition to using some $4.5 million in reserve funds, is the pending enactment of Georgia House Bill 280, which will allow the county to move around $2.5 million in 911 funds, $2 million to the general fund and $500,000 to the fire fund.
-Hunt Archbold contributed to this story.