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COUNTY CONSIDERS FURLOUGH PLAN

But two weeks without pay for some workers would not achieve the desired savings.

Some county employees, including top brass, will be looking at two weeks off without pay during the coming budget year if the County Commission adopts a furlough policy it is set to consider Tuesday.

At least for now, the furloughs would affect only nonunion employees. The Teamsters and the county have not yet reached a settlement on administration-ordered payroll reductions.

With only some county employees facing the time off, the county won't be able to achieve the $533,365 that officials were counting on saving in payroll costs. Furloughing only the nonunion staff will save just $118,345.

There are 526 county workers represented by the Teamsters and 93 nonunion county employees. The furloughs, if approved, would have an impact on all nonunion employees, not just those whose salaries are paid by the general fund.

The rest of the payroll reductions will have to be made up through layoffs, reduced hours and reductions in force, according to Cheryl Marsden, the county's human resources director. Consideration of those actions would come before the board at a future date.

The payroll reductions are just one piece of the county's ongoing efforts to cut spending to make up for what began as a $10 million revenue shortfall in the county's general fund.

County commissioners have spent much of their meeting time the last month going through various department budgets and making decisions about programs, positions and other spending items in an effort to balance the budget prior to the first public hearing, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday.

To meet the requirements of the Fair Labor Standard Act, the salaried employees who are nonunion would have to take their furloughs in five-day weeks for eight-hour-a-day employees or four-day weeks for 10-hour-a-day employees.

Furloughed employees would also not be allowed to do any county work while taking time off, or the county could face some legal liability, according to Marsden's memo to the commission.

That means furloughed employees would even be prohibited from checking their e-mail or voice mail, according to the proposed policy.

Employees would request their furlough weeks, and then it would be up to supervisors to arrange the furloughs in a way "to minimize disruption to the efficient operation of their respective departments.''

The furlough idea has been discussed during negotiations with the Teamsters. A proposal was made by the union, but was then taken off the table, according to Marsden, who serves as chief negotiator for the administration.

Union negotiations continue Sept. 17.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

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