Steamboat Springs One week after turning down a similar request from Sheriff Gary Wall, the Routt County Board of Commissioners will hear from two other department leaders seeking exemptions from the countywide pay cuts adopted April 1.
Building Official Carl Dunham and Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Dave Ruppel will argue today that because their budgets are revenue supported and don't include funding from the county's general fund, some of their employees should be exempt from the 10 percent salary cuts.
The building department's budget is funded by fees from building permits. The airport is funded through airline fees and other charges. Commissioners will discuss restoring the salary of the building department's only electrical inspector at 9:50 a.m. today, and they'll discuss the airport's entire personnel budget of 36 full-time equivalent employees at 9:55 a.m. today.
The commissioners approved the across-the-board pay cuts in an effort to reduce a budget shortfall of $4.9 million. The county's elected officials, whose pay is set by the state Legislature, were exempt from the cuts, but some of them said they would voluntarily cut their pay by 10 percent and return that portion of their salary to the county or donate it to charity.
The pay cuts will save the county more than $1 million this year, but still aren't enough to balance the 2009 budget.
The county also adopted a furlough program earlier this year to reduce county employees' hours in an amount proportional to their pay cut. In addition to the pay cuts and furloughs, all county departments also were asked to make operational cuts to ease the budget deficit.
Commissioner Doug Monger said Monday that the board discussed not including the building department and airport in the salary cuts but ultimately chose not to exclude any department.
"At the time when we passed the 10 percent pay cut, we felt all departments needed to participate," he said, citing fairness and the similarity of some job descriptions in various departments.
Dunham said Monday that because the building department serves the county, Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Yampa, its customers would see a 10 percent reduction in service if the electrical inspector position is not restored, or that customers would work with an independent contractor who fills in every other Friday for the furloughed electrical inspector at a cost of $35 an hour.
Dunham said restoring the salary of his electrical inspector would cost $2,744.60 from Aug. 1 through the rest of the year.
"It's probably not as (much a) money issue as a customer service issue," he said. "We're dealing with prepaid service. We've collected the money, and we're trying to provide services."
County Manager Tom Sullivan said Monday that the savings from the building department will be put in reserves to help make up an estimated $800,000 deficit in the revenue budgeted from building permits to what the county actually expects to receive this year.
Ruppel said Monday that the savings for the rest of the year from the cuts to his staff totals $115,956. He said the Federal Aviation Administration requires those funds only be available for the airport but that he doesn't need the funds to meet his budget.
Eventually, Ruppel said he would like the airport to be a separate entity from the county so it can establish its own pay rates and job requirements for positions. Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said that was a discussion that would be better suited for the 2010 budget, not today's hearing.
Monger said savings from the cuts in the building department and at the airport could allow the county to lower building permit fees and the landing fees charged to airlines. Because the permit fees are needed for building department reserves, lowering those fees wouldn't be an immediate option, he said.
Ruppel said it's too late in the year for savings to benefit the airport or airlines because the fees already were budgeted. He said funds could be returned but likely would just go into the airport's reserves.
Dunham and Ruppel aren't the first county department leaders to request that some of their employees not be included in the cuts.
Sheriff Wall has repeatedly requested that his deputies be exempt from the pay cuts. Wall has said state statute allows him to set his employees' salaries, which were approved by commissioners as part of the 2009 budget that was adopted last year.
The commissioners took no action on Wall's most recent request July 14 because they said he presented no new information to change their minds.
In a continued effort to meet a budget shortfall still at more than $1 million for the rest of the year, the county laid off three employees July 7. Other vacant positions were frozen or eliminated earlier this year. Cuts also were made to county capital and operational expenditures.
County officials have previously said that to balance the 2010 budget without using reserves, they would have to leave the 10 percent pay reduction in place and eliminate about a dozen more positions.