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Budget cuts: Council member warns of costs of delay in budget reductions

San Juan County Council budget committee chairman Richard Fralick is distributing a chart that shows the potential cost of delaying county budget cuts in human terms.

The council is facing the task of balancing the 2009 budget in the face of a revenue shortfall of $1 million to $1.5 million, with only six months left in the fiscal year.

Because 72 percent of the County Current budget is personnel cost, in doing his calculations, Fralick divided 72 percent of the budget reductions needed by the median payroll cost of a full-time county employee.

The county’s staff would have to be cut by the equivalent of 24 to 36 full-time employees almost immediately to meet projected revenue shortfall, according to the county public information office. That’s more than 15 percent of the county’s currently authorized positions.

But if budget-cut decisions were delayed until September, the calculations show the number of full-time equivalent positions that would need to be cut would increase to between 40 and 60 – roughly one out of three full-time equivalent positions on the county’s general fund payroll, according to the county public information office.

Fralick said the council is looking at a number of ways to balance the budget while saving jobs, but, “We can’t afford to defer making a decision until we have all of the information in hand. If we delay a decision the more Draconian the cuts will have to be.”

Second-quarter sales tax revenue – which will provide important information about how large the revenue gap actually is – will not be available until August. On average, laid-off employees will receive about one month’s severance pay so there is a delay between when layoff decision are made and when savings take effect.

The council has scheduled a public hearing and could take action on nearly $900 thousand worth of proposed budget cuts at its June 16 meeting.

There are about 175 authorized “full-time equivalent” positions in the county current budget. This number excludes employees whose salaries are paid out of the road fund, solid waste utility, stormwater utility or other restricted funds.

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