Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert says the county is under a hiring freeze due to a projected deficit in this year's budget.

The county only has $7 million left in the general fund, so they have to make other long-term decisions to prevent future deficits.

Last year, Bibb County took $12 million out of their general fund. Now, they are heading towards a $4 million deficit this year and a $10 million shortfall next year.

“The sooner y’all can make a decision on it, the better,” says BB&T Consultant Jimmy Hinson.

Hinson says the county has some choices to make, so he presented commissioners with 10 proposed health care changes.

“None of us like them, but the reality is we have to operate within our financial abilities,” says Hinson.

Some of the changes include increasing employees' copays and requiring maintenance medications to be filled through the mail rather than through a pharmacy. Hinson says those changes could save the county $1.3 million in six months.

“Trying to drive behavior to a lower cost option,” says Hinson.

The Operations and Finance Committee approved all of the changes except for one which said insurance would not cover emergency room visits that were not actual emergencies. Commissioner Elaine Lucas opposed that change saying it could hurt employees physically and financially.

“People who may have a health crisis, who may be reluctant to go to the emergency room when they need to go,” says Lucas.

Lucas says she is also against all of the other changes because she says they should have talked to employees before deciding.

“I think we got the cart before the horse on a number of these things, and I think we’re going to hear from it,” says Lucas.

The county is planning to put together a committee of retirees and employees to discuss other long-term solutions.

Those health care changes still need final approval from commissioners at next Tuesday’s meeting.