News

County could cut 30 jobs

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Clallam County could lay off 30 employees as part of a proposal to close a $2.4 million budget shortfall.

Following unsuccessful union negotiations, County Administrator Jim Jones proposed 30 layoffs, a reduction in county services and 26 unpaid furlough days for himself, the three commissioners and the director of human resources.

 

Though union representatives declined to waive the union cost-of-living adjustment for 2012 or take 24 unpaid furlough days, Jones said it is not the union’s fault these cuts are being proposed.

 

The commissioners will hold their second round of meetings with department leaders from

8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the commissioners conference room at the courthouse.

 

Jones said each department head gets half an hour to an hour to discuss possible cuts and ways to potentially save jobs.

 

The meetings are open to the public.

 

Clallam County is the only county in the state that hasn’t made significant layoffs to address the economic circumstances taking a chunk out of local government budgets, he said.

 

“We’ve lasted this long because we put away money in the good times,” he said. But the county cannot continue to draw from its reserves to cover operating costs, he said.

 

“It’s time to make the decision,” Jones said.

Big loss in banking

The biggest problems are low tax revenues and the loss of interest on the treasurer’s investment account, which dropped from annual interest of $2.3 million to just $200,000 annual interest, he said.

 

Add that to new bank fees totaling $170,000 a year and the county is barely breaking even managing the tax money for all the junior taxing districts in the county, as mandated by state law, he said.

 

“The rest of the economy we’ve been able to deal with but we can’t get around this,” Jones said.

 

The county manages an estimated $90 million in tax revenue, though just $9 million actually goes to the county itself, he said. To change the rules the state constitution would need to be amended.

Cuts to public safety

Some of the steepest cuts proposed by Jones in his recommended budget presented Oct. 4 are in the area of public safety.

 

Jones said other departments received the biggest cuts since 2009 as 29 positions were eliminated.

“They’ve already been cut as far as they can go,” he said.

 

The only places that weren’t cut before fell in the law and justice category, he said. Jones said he recommended cuts he believes would allow departments to continue to operate, though likely not as efficiently.

 

Proposed cuts include eliminating the entire Sheriff’s Code Enforcement Department, cutting 2.5 positions in the Prosecutor’s Office, merging both district courts, eliminating seven other Sheriff’s Office positions and cutting the cost equivalent of two positions in indigent defense.

 

Jones, the commissioners and the director of human resources agreed to take 26 unpaid furlough days, which equals a 10-percent salary cut.

 

“We just can’t hold on anymore,” he said.

 

The Clallam County commissioners will meet with department leaders to determine if other cuts can be made to avoid layoffs.

 

The final budget hearings are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and at 6 p.m. Dec. 6.

 

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