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Six county employees laid off

Revenue shortfalls and insurance costs that could more than double led to Thursday’s layoff of six county employee, commissioners said.

Friday, October 26, 2001

Revenue shortfalls and insurance costs that could more than double led to Thursday’s layoff of six county employee, commissioners said.

"This is not a good day to have to do this," commissioner Jason Stephens said in the board’s regular meeting, making the motion to layoff one dog shelter and three courthouse workers.

"But we have to be responsible for the budget and to the taxpayers," Stephens said.

Commission president Paul Herrell expressed his regret, and said the county’s financial situation makes such a difficult decision necessary.

The board had discussed layoffs for several weeks, citing a decline in county dollars – the state is cutting back on its funding of local programs; sales taxes from three months ago already show a 7 percent decline; the only bid for employee health insurance could cost the county $650,000 more per year; and neighboring counties are borrowing money to stay afloat, Herrell said.

"We will get you back as soon as possible," he added, referring to the employees.

Thursday’s layoffs came with opposition from Commissioner George Patterson, who voted against the move.

Patterson, a Democrat who has often criticized the hiring practices of his Republican colleagues, suggested the situation should have been avoidable.

The commissioner voted against creating a human resources position more than a year ago, and said that if money had been saved there and in other created positions, current layoffs might have been avoided.

"Other than union people, I don’t see any other management people taking a whack," Patterson said.

Human resources director Les York volunteered to leave his post before Thursday’s recommendation to begin layoffs, and said he would not file for unemployment.

York added that he hoped his leaving would save another one or two jobs.

"I don’t want to see anybody lose their job but I feel this is right," he said, adding later that the county cut only where it could.

Citing a 30 percent reduction in the commission’s payroll budget, York recommended commissioners accept his and EMA employee Dick Lang’s voluntary layoff.

The other four layoffs were a dog shelter clerk/computer technician, the courthouse receptionist, a county utility position and a courthouse custodian.

The layoffs, governed by the collective bargaining agreement between commissioners and AFSCME Local 3319-D, will occur no later than Nov. 12. York’s layoff becomes effective at the end of business today. Lang’s layoff will become effective Jan. 1, 2002.

The laid employees will be covered by health insurance through Nov. 30.

Commissioner Herrell, in response to Patterson’s comments, said that from three years ago until Thursday there are 21 fewer employees on the county payroll.

And, the board will ask other officeholders to consider similar financial cutbacks, including layoffs, in order to shore up county finances, Herrell said.

Saying it might be premature, Patterson also called on other offices to pay attention to the county’s financial picture or face state action, which could be more forceful.

"Based on the dollars and cents coming in and the projected budget if I don’t see the cuts necessary to put the county in the black I will put a motion on to ask the state to come in," he said.

"If the rest don’t cut accordingly, we will ask for that," Herrell said. "There’s nothing wrong with that."

Commissioners also took another step Thursday toward saving county dollars – voting to pay only the state-required minimum for the humane agent, $25 a month instead of $500 a month.