Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 14, 2013
More county employees let go before commissioners reveal new plan

Ten more.

That’s how many people Tooele County laid off  last week in the sixth round of layoffs since the county started reductions last fall.

Those laid off Thursday include three employees in the county recorder’s office; three full-time and one part-time building and development services employee; one employee from the road department; one from the solid waste department; and one attorney from the county attorney’s office.

Along with the laid-off workers, employees in the clerk’s and assessor’s offices took a voluntary pay cut by reducing their work hours from 40 to 36 per week, according to Wade Mathews, Tooele County public information officer.

Over 100 county employees have now either lost their jobs or had their work status modified.

Tooele County Commissioners are not promising that last week’s layoffs are the end of staff reductions. Commissioners are still waiting to hear from Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park on how his office will deal with the latest budget cuts.

The commissioners are scheduled to reveal what they have called their “Financial Recovery Plan” at tonight’s commission meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Tooele County Building.

The county’s budget reduction efforts began last fall when commissioners slashed $3.1 million from the 2012 budget as the result of declining mitigation fees from EnergySolutions and anticipated income for contracted jail inmates didn’t materialize.

As a result of the cuts in 2012, 50 county employees were laid off, 28 had their employment status changed, and five were transferred to different departments.

The cuts also caused the county’s economic development department to be dissolved, bookmobile services were eliminated, the director of emergency management retired, and the entire emergency management department lost most of its staff. Those who remained were absorbed by the county health department.

Furthermore, the Tooele County Engineer was laid off, his position eliminated, and the surveyor’s office gutted, leaving only the part-time elected county surveyor.

The sheriff’s department lost 22 employees, including the two-man hazmat team.

Despite adoption of a budget for 2013 that was balanced with a $2.6 million property tax increase, staff reductions continued in 2013.

In March 2013, 29 employees were laid off as the entire parks and recreation and building maintenance crews, except the directors, were eliminated.

County parks and recreation operations, including Deseret Peak Complex and Benson Gristmill,  have been temporarily closed as the directors were given 30 days to develop a plan to merge their departments and continue their services with reduced costs.

Ninety days later, details of the parks, recreation and building maintenance plan have not been announced.

Earlier in May, Tooele County commissioners eliminated 11 positions when they announced the transfer of relief services, food bank, and domestic violence victims assistance programs to Valley Mental Health.

The county needs to trim $4 million from the 2013 budget to end deficit spending, pay back money borrowed from internal accounts, and end the year with a modest increase in the fund balance, according to Commissioner Shawn Milne.

Commissioner Jerry Hurst said during the commission’s April 30 meeting that 2013 budget reductions have reached $2.5 million.

Commissioners have deferred all questions about last Thursday’s layoffs until they present their financial recovery plan at tonight’s commission meeting.

“We will have a Powerpoint presentation with a detailed explanation of how the county got into the current financial situation,” said Milne. “We will also present in detail what we have done and what our plan is for the future. One thing we heard very clearly at the last commissioner meeting was that we have not done a good job of communicating our plan.”

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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