Early retirements save county $2.2 million | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Early retirements save county $2.2 million

Greg Crofton

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has approved an early retirement plan for 44 county employees that could save the county about $2.2 million.

Employees eligible for the plan – who must be at least 50 years old and have been part of the California Public Employee’s Retirement System for five years – must make the decision to retire before June 21, said Laura Gill, chief administrative officer for the county.

“I know several that are interested,” Gill said. “As they retire we would cut their position.”

Since January, at the behest of the board, Gill has scrambled to come up with ways to address an anticipated $12.5 million deficit for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The deficit is the result of an indication from Gov. Schwarzenegger that the state of California will tap county property tax revenues to help address its massive deficit.

The predicted deficit is also due to escalating costs for El Dorado County. There have been staggering increases in the county’s required contributions to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and health insurance costs have risen.

Gill is “cautiously optimistic” the county is on track to bring a balanced budget to the supervisors before the end of June. By law, county governments in California are not allowed to run a deficit.

“But we still don’t know what the Legislature is going to do,” Gill said. “Not to mention the state budget. We won’t know about that until after the May (state) budget revisions.

El Dorado County’s general fund has a budget of $160 million for 2003-2004, which ends June 30. With transportation, health, community service and other state funded programs included in the budget, it tops out a $285 million.

Budget proposals for fiscal year 2004-2005 are due from the county’s departments by April 5. Gill has asked the 27 department heads to cut up to $12.5 million from the budgets. Those cuts could include a loss of about 70 of the 1,900 jobs the county provides.

“We’ll target which positions have to be eliminated,” Gill said. “Then we’ll go through and review everything.”

The cuts, in addition to the money that could be saved with the early retirement program, are still likely to leave the county at least a couple million dollars in the hole. That cash, Gill said, may have to come from fee hikes at places like parks, planning and building departments or from sales, hotel and motel tax revenues that may end up being more than expected.

“There are quite a bit of other places we could go,” Gill said. “There is a fee study underway.”

Earlier this year, Gill consolidated 14 departments into six and ordered temporary layoffs for 350 employees that requires them to stay at home five work days with no pay. Another 72 employees – which include county prosecutors and public defenders – will have to stay away from work without pay for one day.

The layoffs will save the county about $1.2 million for fiscal year 2003-2004 and help protect money needed for the coming budget. Employees affected by the move must stay away from work for five days before June 30.

Gill has also requested that the county departments establish performance measures to demonstrate their efficiency has improved before the end of the month.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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