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Orange County manager announces resignation

Posted March 9, 2009

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— Laura Blackmon, county manager for Orange County, announced to her staff Monday that she plans leave her post. Her last day on the job is scheduled for June 30.

Blackmon did not give a specific reason for her planned departure, but cited the county's budget struggles throughout an e-mail explaining her decision.

The full text of Blackmon's e-mail to county employees follows:

Dear Employees,

By now you have probably heard I gave notice to the BOCC on Friday that my husband and I have decided to leave the area and move to Tennessee. My last day on the job will be June 30, 2009. I know the timing of this announcement is not good, but my employment agreement with the county requires I give 90 day notice and I was running out of time. By the end of June I will have been here over 2 ½ years. This is not as long as I had originally thought I would stay, but life isn’t always as we plan it.

I know you understand how difficult a year this will be for the budget. The BOCC has committed itself to a revenue neutral tax rate which means the tax rate will generate the same amount of revenue from property taxes as last year. A lot of residents are upset about the revaluation of their property, but the neutral tax rate should keep their taxes in check unless their property has increased in value above the average of all properties in the county.

Revaluation and neutral tax rate, however, are not the problem in and of themselves. The real problem for the coming year is most of our other revenue sources are declining, we have new facilities opening which means an increase in utilities and general operating costs, we have an increase in demands for services, especially in the human resources departments and the state is beginning to withhold revenue from us because of its budget shortfalls.

Things are not looking good for the county or the two school systems, which have already been told they too will see a decrease in funds next year. The Budget Office has estimated the shortfall to be about $8 million, which will be difficult to absorb without cutting services or staff. The BOCC has emphasized its desire NOT to reduce staff but to seek other ways of cutting expenditures. Those of you who are fully funded from outside sources such as grants, state and/or federal monies are more vulnerable than other employees because it will be hard to absorb the cost of your salary and benefits should those funding sources disappear. Nevertheless the Commissioners and Management are adamant about keeping everyone employed, so we will do our best to make sure no one loses their job.

Having said all that, it is crucial everyone understand and support the difficult decisions being made over the next few months. You have probably already heard there will be no cost of living or merit increases for employees next year. We are also expecting about an 8% increase in the cost of medical benefits next calendar year. These costs can be contained if we work hard to stay healthy and reduce our claims for insurance. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.

The department directors have submitted their budgets with a 10% reduction in operating line items, overtime and temporary employee expenditure requests. I am hoping this 10% cut will be enough given the shortfall we are expecting in revenues. However, some departments are actually seeing an increase in the cost of doing business (Public Works, IT, Parks and Recreation for example) or an increase in service demands (such as Health, DSS, and Emergency Services). In reality, once the final budget is approved some departments will see more cut from their budgets than other departments. I don’t see how this can be avoided. Tough decisions will have to be made about whether or not we open new parks or county buildings that are now almost complete, whether we cut operating hours for libraries, the animal shelter, senior centers and other county facilities, or whether we limit the amount of services we provide for those residents in our community most in need of assistance.

I think the bottom line will be for us to reduce, eliminate, or delay those services that are important but not as critical as our core services, which are the services the county provides because it is legally required by statute or because government is the best agency to do so. Such decisions will not be easy and we must do all we can to suggest, inform, recommend and ultimately support the Board of Commissioners who will be tasked with that responsibility.

In closing let me just say thank you for all you do for the residents of Orange County. As public servants we have a unique responsibility to the community and I know you will continue to do the very best job you can despite the difficulties ahead.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • whatelseisnew Mar 9, 2009

    They need to get serious. Jobs must be cut, services must be cut and building must be closed. You and do it now and save more employees, or you can do it later and it will be a lot worse.

  • Raleigh Boys Mar 9, 2009

    Orange County..
    Take a look at all the empty offices there are, and compare them to all the new ones being built.

    Then ask yourself, WHY, OH WHY would you build new buildings when there are empty ones collecting dust?

    Case in point. The building where the tax and register of deeds office used to be was built two decades ago, sits rotting while several new buildings are being crammed downtown H'boro where traffic is already maxed out.


  • showed up late Mar 9, 2009

    Well said Just Once. These 'representatives' we have elected are certainly not taking "we the people" into consideration. I think she wrote the letter so that everything she has already stated privately to her peers, will be documented so she can pull an "I told you so" out of her pocket sometime in the future. Funny, when someone new, accepts the position you left, says the same thing you have said for years, they are 'injecting new ideas'. Been there, done that.

  • Dolphan Mar 9, 2009

    For those of you that may not have read her entire letter, let me summarize; "It's been real...see ya!"

  • Just Once Mar 9, 2009

    Sometimes the job you are hired to do is not worth the personal price you would have to pay to get it done. In which case, you resign and go do something else.

  • D1nationalchamps Mar 9, 2009

    I think I'd run for the hills too if I was in charge of a massive property revaluation (aka money grab) during the worst economic downturn since the depression. Let's see, you create a bedroom county with no industry, depend solely on residential property tax paid by people that work(ed) in the park and commute(d), discourage retail development so you don't collect much sales tax revenue, duplicate services already provided by the state so that you can be seen as progressive, continue to hire, provide full-paid benefits to spouses and partners, buy millions of dollars of property that is now taken OFF of the property tax rolls (which she just now realizes will increase costs to run them)...... I'm sorry, why is Orange county in such bad shape? Wait for it, next we'll hear,"We're going to have to cut services for seniors and children if we don't find new revenue with an additional tax increase over the revaluation." Yes I called the revaluation a tax increase. If it quacks.....

  • raider Mar 9, 2009

    Maybe whoever wrote the article should also consider resigning, since they didn't even spell ANNOUNCES correctly in the headline.

  • superman Mar 9, 2009

    A very long letter. Seems to be more of an address of the state of the county address. She didnt need all that to tell the staff she was leaving. They probably already knew that she was in over her head.

  • GoGreen Mar 9, 2009

    She is headed to the mountains of Tennessee in preparation for the coming anarchy. Good advice, we all best get going. Take your guns...

  • bushisaretard Mar 9, 2009

    Sounds like she can't do the job she was hired to do.