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COUNTY OKAYS FURLOUGHFOR NONUNION WORKERS

The decision affects 93 employees. Layoffs could come from the remaining 526 workers.

County employees, largely supervisory personnel, will have to take two weeks off without pay in the new budget year, the County Commission decided on Tuesday.

That decision, which impacts 93 employees including the county administrator and department heads, is one part of the county's effort to reduce payroll by more than a half-million dollars in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The second part will likely be more painful. Because representatives of the Teamsters Union have not been receptive to approving a furlough plan, the other 526 county workers could face elimination of their positions or layoffs, officials said.

The county had discussed furloughing all workers under the control of the Hernando County Commission for a total of 12 days, which would have saved about $533,365 from the general fund. But research showed that nonunion workers who are largely salaried employees can be furloughed only in full work weeks, so county officials dropped the number of days to the equivalent of two work weeks.

That will save the county $118,345.

The other $415,020 they need to cut from payroll will have to come through cutting staff and leaving positions that come open unfilled, said deputy county administrator Larry Jennings.

Commissioner Rose Rocco questioned whether the county could treat one group of employees one way when planning cuts and do something different with another group.

Assistant county attorney Jon Jouben said the whole concept of union bargaining allows one group of employees to negotiate a contract to be treated differently than nonunion workers.

In the case of the Teamsters, Jouben said, they favor reductions in force and layoffs (to furloughs) and "they can take that position.''

Commissioner Jeff Stabins suggested furloughs might be more fair if spread over not just county employees under the commission, but all county employees, including those who work for the elected constitutional officers.

Sworn sheriffs officials and firefighters would not be included.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell questioned whether that would work across the board and pointed out that some of the constitutional officers have already implemented additional cuts.

Stabins was the sole no vote on the furlough plan.

More discussion on what should be done next on the cuts in personnel costs is likely to come during the first public hearing on the budget, which is slated for 5:01 p.m. Thursday in the county commission chambers.

A second and final public hearing is at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 24.

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

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In other county business Tuesday

- Commissioners awarded three road improvement contracts to DAB Constructors, the first of the projects that will be paid for using federal economic stimulus dollars. The projects include an asphalt overlay project on Deltona Boulevard from Cortez Boulevard to Northcliff at a cost of $235,200, a resurfacing project for Spring Hill Drive from Deltona Boulevard to Pinehurst Drive for $264,400, and a resurfacing project on Burwell Road from Cortez Boulevard to the Pasco County line for $262,500. Commissioners are expected to consider contracts for five more stimulus money road projects in the next several weeks.

- The commission agreed to transfer funds within the animal services budget to address some security concerns at the facility. In recent months the remote location has had a number of issues with vandalism and theft, including the unauthorized taking of animals, according to Jean Rags, human services director. Among the changes made necessary by the problems, the facility has dismantled its night drop for animals and will instead provide a place to keep animals picked up by enforcement personnel during off hours. Commissioner John Druzbick suggested the county consider using the jail in some way to provide animal care. He said programs exist which allow inmates to take care of animals, providing both a help to the community and a productive way for an inmate to pass their time. County Administrator David Hamilton said those issues will be discussed with jail personnel after the county's budget is set.

- A discussion of a suspension of impact fees to jump start home building was pulled from Tuesday's agenda at the request of Len Tria, who was representing the Liaison Committee, a group comprised of building, real estate and business interests in the community. While the county's Business and Economic Development Committee had agreed to pass a resolution seeking the suspension of impact fees on to the commissioners, Hamilton said the Liaison Committee had not yet voted to support a resolution making the request and the issue was likely to come back at a future meeting.

- Commissioners agreed to refund about $74,500 to the developer of Hernando Oaks as an overpayment in connection fees. Utilities director Joe Stapf said that the developer actually paid the fees for 20 more lots than were actually platted for the project and there was an additional overpayment related to the community clubhouse.

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