TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Mon, June 24

County lays off eight employees

PRESCOTT - County layoffs started this past Thursday.

"We lost eight people," Development Services Director Ken Spedding said. "We have been way down on permit activity which reduced my budget substantially. Without the money coming in, I knew something had to happen."

Yavapai County Administrator Julie Ayers told the Board of Supervisors Oct. 6 that the 2008-09 budget already is $5.9 million in the hole because the county is receiving less money than it expected from taxes and other fees. The board gave her permission to start laying-off employees.

"These were 'targeted layoffs' based on workload," Ayers said. "Development Services has had to add employees since the construction boom of the 2000s, but it was with the understanding that if things slowed down, they would have to cut back."

In 2005, development services issued 6,386 permits and had slightly more than 80 employees.

Spedding estimates that his department would issue less than half that many permits - about 3,100 - for this coming year but with the same number of employees.

During the peak permit years, permit fees nearly paid for development services' direct and indirect operational costs, Spedding said. Development services cost the county very little money to operate.

However, with the department bringing in 50 percent less income, supervisors now have to pull money from the general fund to make up the difference.

More layoffs probably are coming, Ayers said.

Department directors are providing Ayers with an explanation of their department's services and the employees they need to perform them.

She is writing a "prioritization of services list" and giving it to the board of supervisors Nov. 17 at its board meeting in Cottonwood.

Laid-off county employees have an automatic 90-day recall status, Alan Vigneron, human resources director, said.

"If something changes within 90 days then they could automatically get re-hired," he explained.

The county gave the eight laid-off employees a two-week paid notice. They do not have to report to work for those two weeks.

Vigneron provided each employee with a severance packet that includes job hotlines, information about unemployment benefits, tax and retirement information, and contact information for representatives of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments.

"County government is not like most businesses - our services and activity does not slow down just because the economy is bad," Vigneron said.

"It is going to be difficult for the citizens to understand that some of the services they are accustomed to getting may not be there anymore because of the budget cuts," Ayers said. "It comes down to essential versus non-essential services."

The county is not targeting employee layoffs based on the customary "last hired first fired" scenario, she said. Layoffs are based on department workload and necessity.

"It was bound to happen with the way things are going, but I lost some excellent employees," Spedding said.

"It was just a very sad and emotional day."

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