For the third time in the last four months Tooele County has announced a reduction of employees as the Tooele County Commission and county department heads scramble to reduce expenses to meet an unforeseen reduction in revenue.
“We really hope and believe this will be the last round of cuts in staff we will have to make for this year,” said Colleen Johnson, Tooele County Commission chairwoman. “The last few months have been horrible, but we have to reduce expenses to match our income.”
County employees learned of more impending cuts in staff last Thursday afternoon when county commissioners sent an email to all county employees stating that department heads would be holding meetings to inform their staff of reduction in force plans for their departments.
This most recent round of layoffs affected 22 people, according to Johnson.
Eliminated through the Thursday afternoon announcements were eight part-time workers from the Deseret Peak Complex, two part-time information department workers, two part-time people from the maintenance staff, one part-time person from treasurer’s office that had been devoted to collected license renewals for the Department of Motor Vehicles, one full-time person from the IT department, one full-time clerk from the justice court, three secretaries from the county attorney’s office and one full-time person each from the office of the county treasurer, assessor, recorder and auditor.
Johnson said the commissioners met with department heads and asked each department to come up with a plan to trim their budget by 5 or 15 percent.
“The percentage depended on the department and their overall budget size,” said Johnson. “To ask a department with a small budget to absorb a 15 percent cut would be difficult. We also considered how much revenue each department produces in determining the amount we asked them to cut.”
Department heads then sat down with the human resources department and decided on a reduction in force plan to meet their targeted budget reduction. The reduction in force plan included consideration for seniority and experience, Johnson said.
Johnson did not know how much the latest rounds of layoffs will save the county, but she did know that combined with previous layoffs and budget adjustments the county is looking at a combined savings of $3.1 million.
In late August, the county commissioners were predicting a $4 million shortfall in revenue due to a decrease in mitigation fees primarily from EnergySolutions operations at Clive and jail fee revenue for federal prisoners that never materialized.
With the accumulated $3.1 million in budget reductions, the county budget is back on track with the original budget approved in December 2011 that included using $900,000 of the county’s fund balance to cover 2012’s expenses, according to Johnson.
Announcement of layoffs at the county started in August with 28 people affected, including the elimination of the office of economic development, all surveyors other than the elected county surveyor, and 22 positions in the sheriff’s office.
In early September, another round of layoffs was announced as mitigation fees continued to come in lower than budgeted.
The second round of layoffs affected 10 people, including doing away with the county engineer post and the county health department absorbing the functions of the emergency management department.
Johnson said the commissioners staged the layoffs as they watched mitigation fee payments, which come in monthly.
“We had to keep an eye on mitigation fees and other revenue,” said Johnson. “We did not know exactly how much we needed to cut and even at this time the cuts we have made are based on projections of income for the balance of the year.”