County pink slips could reach South Lake Tahoe
October 22, 2008
Fifteen county employees, including an undetermined number from South Lake Tahoe, will be getting pink slips as a result of an emergency effort by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to balance the 2008-09 county budget.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the board approved one of two layoff proposals to trim down the Department of Development Services, a division that fell 50 percent below revenue projections in the first quarter.
Of the two plans under consideration, the one chosen results in the fewer number of layoffs. The other, which was recommended by the Chief Administrative Office, would have put 23 people out of work, but would have relied less on the county’s general contingency fund to balance the budget.
Development Services positions that will no longer exist include the two Placerville and South Shore branch manager spots, as well as counter staff and administrative support positions at both branches. The number of positions cut in the department is actually 17, but two positions are currently vacant. Even Development Services employees who are not laid off will be affected, as the measure forces them each to take 10 unpaid days off during the budget year.
There are seven employees at the Development Services Lake Tahoe office including Bob Greene, the branch manager. Thirty-day notices are supposed to go out as early as Thursday.
“We’re not sure how it is all going to happen. We are unclear how it will work on the line-level,” said Lucy Sandoval, senior development technician for the county’s development services and building department branch in South Lake Tahoe.
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There is concern among local contractors who routinely use the office for questions, requirements and to begin the building application process. A number of contractors have asked the Tahoe staff what will become of the office, Sandoval said.
“We are trying to not listen to the rumors out there as far as who is going to be affected until we get the word from our human resources department and our department head,” she said.
Sandoval has been through the process before, in 2007, when there was a a series of layoffs to balance county’s budget.
“When the economy is affected there is the trickle effect and we are going to be impacted by that,” she said. “As far as I know there is no one safe, so to speak.”
The board chambers was packed with people, some of whom will be directly affected by the layoffs.
Supervisor Rusty Dupray, who voted for the proposal, said, “You know how difficult it is to sit up here and look at all these faces, but we’ve got to do something. We can no longer be an ostrich with its head in the sand.”
Dupray, when later responding to Supervisor Jack Sweeney’s question of how the permit-seeking public will potentially be affected by cuts in the department, said, “I’d rather wait another month for a permit than another 10 to 15 minutes for a fire engine.”
Sweeney, Dupray, Norma Santiago and Ron Briggs all did eventually vote for the measure. Helen Baumann was the sole dissenting voice.
The problems in Development Services were first introduced to the board just two weeks after it had passed its annual operating budget. It was then that Chief Administrative Officer Gayle Erbe-Hamlin reported that fewer permit applications in the first quarter had led to a projected $2 million deficiency in the department.
County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn has blamed Development Services and the CAO’s Office for not bringing up the shortfall months before the budget was passed in September, since he said it was clear permits were down as early as July.
“Your board needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Harn said during the session. “If they’re not going to monitor their budget projections, then add a position to my department and I will.”
Current Development Ser-vices Director Roger Trout and Erbe-Hamlin have each only been in their posts for about three months.
Also on the agenda later in the morning was a proposal to cut every department in the county by 4 percent, an agenda item that brought several county heads, including District Attorney Vern Pierson and Sheriff Jeff Neves to the meeting.
That recommendation from the CAO was to strengthen the county’s general contingency fund, which Erbe-Hamlin said is $3.7 million shy of what it should be.
The board members did decide that the $3.7 million should be made, but not on a generic all-department scale. They instructed Harn and Erbe-Hamlin to come back in early December with a more detailed plan.