Routt County employees listen as Sheriff Gary Wall speaks to the Routt County Board of Commissioners in response to a comment by Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak on Tuesday in the Commissioners Hearing Room. The board unanimously adopted a furlough plan for county employees.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County employees listen as Sheriff Gary Wall speaks to the Routt County Board of Commissioners in response to a comment by Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak on Tuesday in the Commissioners Hearing Room. The board unanimously adopted a furlough plan for county employees.

Routt County to start furloughs for employees next week

Resolution includes provisions aimed specifically at Sheriff Gary Wall

Advertisement

Video

Sheriff's reaction to furloughs

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall talks about his reaction to a furlough plan adopted for county employees.

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall talks about his reaction to a furlough plan adopted for county employees.

Video

County furloughs

Routt County Elections Deputy Kim Bonner discusses her reaction to a furlough plan adopted for county employees.

Routt County Elections Deputy Kim Bonner discusses her reaction to a furlough plan adopted for county employees.

photo

Routt County Commissioners Nancy Stahoviak, left, and Diane Mitsch Bush, right, listen to Doug Monger talk during Tuesday's meeting to discuss furloughs for county employees.

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a furlough plan for county employees Tuesday, with provisions aimed at protecting the county against Sheriff Gary Wall's attempts to prevent pay cuts in his department.

The furlough plan was developed to give county employees time off work to match a 10 percent, countywide pay cut adopted by the commissioners April 1. The pay cut is intended to help reduce an expected $4.9 million shortfall in the county's budget. Sheriff's Office employees, however, will not be eligible for the proportional decrease in hours because Wall has challenged the commissioners' authority to unilaterally reduce the salaries of employees of elected officials without mutual agreement.

The furlough plan adopted Tuesday states, "No employee employed in a county department headed by an elected official where the elected official has not accepted the pay reduction for their department : by a written acceptance : by April 30, 2009, shall be eligible for this furlough plan regardless of whether such employee's wages or salary has been reduced."

Although Sheriff's Office employees' pay has been reduced despite Wall's objections, County Attorney John Merrill said it is necessary to preclude them from the furlough plan in case Wall pursues legal action against the county and a judge ultimately rules in his favor, so that Sheriff's Office employees don't end up receiving full pay as well as time off.

Wall said he has yet to decide whether to pursue formal legal action against the commissioners.

The commissioners softened a related provision of the resolution asserting their authority to reduce or eliminate county employee benefits if they choose. An earlier draft of the resolution included a provision stating that if any Routt County elected official refuses to accept the pay cut, "the board reserves the right to exclude the employees working in that elected official's department from employment benefits : including : retirement plan coverage and medical insurance coverage."

That language was removed and replaced with a recital stating the commissioners would reduce or eliminate benefits only "in an extreme case such as when an elected officials refuses to assist the board in the reduction of departmental expenses."

"It was very directly related to whether the particular department leaders were cooperating with the effort to close the gap in the budget," Merrill said about the recital. "This is : one of the ways the board might, in the future, close the gap."

Wall said he is sensitive and aware of the county's "serious financial issues" but that he continues to oppose a one-size-fits-all pay reduction and the furlough program, thinking it does not allow him to provide an adequate level of public safety.

"This furlough : cannot work in this agency," Wall said. "We can't provide professional law enforcement services with the program I believe you're going to adopt."

After Tuesday's hearing, Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush questioned the sincerity of Wall's statement that he is sensitive to the dire financial state of the county. She noted meetings last week when department leaders were asked to submit suggested cuts to their operational budgets. Although some departments suggested cutting their operational budget by more than 10 percent, Wall presented $30,000 in proposed cuts, about 3 percent of his operational budget, and announced he would not entertain attempts to cut his budget further.

"That meeting showed me that it's possible our sheriff doesn't really care about cutting our budget," said Mitsch Bush, who also noted substantial increases in the Sheriff's Office's budget in recent years.

The combined Detention Center and Sheriff's Office budget has increased from $3.7 million in 2006, the year Wall was elected, to $4.6 million in 2009.

The furlough plan does not replace the 10 percent pay cuts adopted April 1, but it does provide county employees with "furlough compensatory leave" equal to 10 percent of their regularly scheduled work hours.

Salaried employees who are not eligible for overtime also are not eligible for furlough compensatory leave, but the resolution adopted Tuesday includes a provision allowing department heads to give salaried employees time off work consistent with the furlough plan.

The furlough plan takes effect next week. Specific plans for how the furlough plan will be applied to each county department are expected to be finalized next week, Commissioner Doug Monger said. Monger said he expects most county offices in the Routt County Courthouse that are open to the public to move to four nine-hour days, Monday through Thursday.

Comments

Suz 5 years, 7 months ago

I hope the commissioners are happy this morning. I would be willing to bet the the employees of the county are not. All they really wanted were the same options that the city of Steamboat employees got. The choice of a pay cut or a furlough. What I find sad is that the commissioners never really considered the furlough plan, even after the pressure from the newspaper and its department heads. A furlough to go with their paycut does little to take the sting out of the whole thing.

0

Kat Kelly 5 years, 7 months ago

When the City started its Monday-Thursday schedule I understand from a County office, most of our citizens assumed the County offices were on the same schedule. I am glad County workers will now have an opportunity with time off to find other income opportunities or be able to cut expenses by having time off.

0

honestabe 5 years, 7 months ago

What about the departments that are already overworked? Will their offices now be less effective? What of departments that are seeing an INCREASE in their workload with the bad economy? Will these short (shorter) handed departments be made to cut employees also? Or will the short handed/overworkloaded departments need to ADD new employees to make up for the increased work and less hours scheduled? i cant imagine unemployment offices, child welfare offices, or polices' work will decrease.

0

goremtn 5 years, 7 months ago

Wall and the BoCC need to figure out a way to resolve this in a way that allows the other side to save face. Every body is losing here. Employees get their pay chopped and now have furlough days....citizens are going to receive one less day each week to access county offices and services....county employees are expected to do more with less....now we have the threat of a potential lawsuit ($$$ for lawyers)....The gamesmanship has got to stop. Rome is burning and they are all playing violin. Who is going to step up and be a leader here?

0

tcb 5 years, 7 months ago

The furloughs are not an additional slap to the paycuts. What the BCC has done here is essentially mirror the program that City employees are subject to......except the Sheriff's Office. Seems to me that Wall has a point here about public safety, but he's gone out of his way to make it contentious. Why wasn't he in front of the BCC sooner pleading his case in private? Nope, gotta do it publicly. I'm of the mindset that Wall could've come up with a plan sooner. Glad he's sticking up for his staff and for safety, but it only seems to serve him well if there's drama and contention. At the very least, he could've come up with more than $30,000 in budget cuts to show that he was actually serious and interested in the financial well-being of county government. I sure hope there's a quick and reasonable end to this for the employees sake......an end that doesn't require a pile of citizen money being spent on attorney's fees, that is.

0

Suz 5 years, 7 months ago

This furlough dose not mirror the city program. The city employees were allowed to keep their pay and cut their hours. That is what a furlough is. The county employees had their pay cut. They were then told they would be paid for 40 hours a week while only working 36 hours, all at the reduced wage. That, no matter how you look at it is a slap in the face. While I do not agree with sheriff Wall, he is correct in the fact that one size does not fit all. What will work for one department will not always work for another. The employees wanted the right to choose a furlough or a pay cut depending on their department.

0

sickofitall 5 years, 7 months ago

Wish I had a choice, us poor private sector workers just got canned!

0

justice4all 5 years, 7 months ago

Could it be that Wall does not want to participate because he will be expected to also forfeit 10%. And who is he looking out for? If Wall wanted to cut expenses he could donate 10% of his salary and help the budget. I commend our commissioners for doing so. Shame on Wall for not following their example!

0

tcb 5 years, 7 months ago

Suz, the city employees were allowed to keep their pay and cut their hours? What? One does not get paid for furlough hours....that's the budget reduction part of it. Giving someone 4 hours off without a reduction is pay is called.......VACATION. So.....if you work 36 hours instead of 40 and get paid for the 36 hours, that's a furlough. 36 hours is 4 hours less than 40, so that's roughly a 10% paycut.

Taking a 10% paycut without a corresponding cut in hours is called a 10% pay cut. Ta da! I agree, though, that this is all a bunch of hooey and needs to be fixed..and fixed quickly. About the only positive in this is that the lawsuit the Sheriff will no doubt file will take us to the end of his term in office....maybe even to the end of terms for a commissioner or two, also. Then we can start all over.

0

Suz 5 years, 7 months ago

Ta da, that is cute.... But you are right, it is all a bunch of hooey and was done to make the commissioners look like they were playing along. Let me ask you this. What do they need with more vacation time? They can't have over time. It must be rolled over into comp time. They have vacation time, some of they have 4 weeks of it. Now, they have to use all of this comp time and vacation time or lose it. If they lose the comp time it means they have worked for free. Here is the real question. If all these people are taking comp and vacation time just who is working?

0

Suz 5 years, 7 months ago

One more thing. I did not mean take a 32 hour week and get paid for 40. I was speaking of taking a 32 hour week and getting paid their regular hourly wage. And yes, that is where the reduction comes in. But, I think you knew that.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.