The Yolo County Board of Supervisors discussed plans for balancing this year‘s $3.5 million budget deficit and a projected $19 million deficit for 2009-2010 at a meeting last week.
Possible actions discussed at the meeting include voluntary salary savings measures, asking departments to make cuts and possibly layoffs.
America‘s economic crisis has been a big factor in the county‘s budget shortfall, said assistant county administrator Pat Leary.
“As the economy has tanked and consumer confidence has decreased precipitously, [sales tax and property tax] revenues are going down significantly,“ Leary said.
This year‘s budget also “relied very heavily on one time revenue,“ including $8.2 million in reserve funds that will not be available next year.
Leary said the county has asked individual departments to identify areas where they can cut costs. This could mean that some empty positions will not be filled and some proposed new programs will not be initiated.
As of Nov. 4, departments had identified $2.2 million in reductions for the county.
Leary said county employees may be offered options to decrease their earnings in the hope that employees will choose to earn less for the time being in order to avoid layoffs later.
These options might include deferring cost of living or competitive wage raises, taking extra unpaid time off, switching to a four day 36 hour work-week or switching to more flexible schedules that tend to encourage employees to take extra time off.
Voluntary unpaid time off options saved the county $1.1 million last year, Leary said.
Other cost saving options discussed by the board include mandatory unpaid time off and layoffs.
Supervisor Helen Thomson stressed that layoffs should be a last resort.
“A $19 million cut is 180 jobs,“ Thomson said.
Cutting 180 employees would mean a loss of 10 percent of the county‘s workforce, she said.
“Our philosophy at this point, ought to be to do everything we can to avoid layoffs,” Thomson said.
Supervisor Mike McGowan agreed, but said that significant action must be taken to produce new revenue.
“One of the places we really do need to focus aggressively on is economic development,” McGowan said. “We have to maintain our attitude and our philosophy about protecting [agriculture] land and open space, but we have to make some money; we have to generate some revenues.“
County departments are feeling the stress from county and state budget shortfalls, said chief probation officer Don Meyer.
“[Yolo Probation] lost almost a million dollars in funding from the state,“ Meyer said.
The juvenile program was among the hardest hit by budget cuts. Yolo County Probation may stand to lose 49 percent of funding for the program, he said.
“It‘s probably going to mean … we will be laying people off and closing down programs,“ he said.
Meyer expressed his concern about proposed plans to encourage or require employees to take extra time off.
“Crime doesn‘t stop just because you have budget problems,“ he said. “I don‘t know that there are any good ways to deal with [the budget].“
JON GJERDE can be reached at email@example.com.