Pitkin County lays off four workers
October 15, 2009
ASPEN – Three full-time Pitkin County employees and one part-time worker were laid off Tuesday afternoon in the wake of budget decisions made by county commissioners.
The layoffs will save the county $335,000 in labor costs. In addition, three currently vacant positions in the Community Development Department were eliminated, a $230,614 savings.
The staff reductions included a part-time special events permit coordinator. The full-time jobs were a building department technician, technology coordinator and the deputy director of public works, County Manager Hilary Fletcher said Wednesday.
“In a small community like this, every layoff is painful,” she said. “We are a family. We care for our employees.”
“It’s not easy when you have to make cuts in staffing,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the board. “That’s the hardest thing you have to do.”
The county will provide the individuals who have lost their jobs with a severance package that includes 12 weeks of pay and picking up the cost of their health insurance in full through the end of the year, Fletcher said. As mandated by the federal government, the county will then cover 65 percent of the cost of their health insurance for six months, through June 2010. After that, the employees may keep their health plan with the county at their own cost; in all, they are eligible for the insurance plan for up to 18 months after they were laid off.
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The county will also offer counseling services for the employees and their families, and provide job placement services, Fletcher said.
In their budget deliberations Tuesday, commissioners agreed with staff recommendations that resulted in the layoffs, but also agreed with a recommendation to reinstate five other positions that were not included in the base budget presented for their consideration.
The layoffs in Pitkin County follow similar moves in the city of Aspen and town of Snowmass Village, as local governments respond to plummeting sales tax revenues.
Aspen announced last month it would eliminate 16 positions and was laying off 12 individuals; last week, town government in Snowmass announced six layoffs and the elimination of another 2.5 positions.
The county’s general fund budget, which includes basic operations along with road and bridge and Social Services functions, also reflects a wage freeze for all employees and other cuts. But Commissioner Jack Hatfield said Wednesday the reductions don’t go far enough.
Hatfield gave the budget a conceptual nod Tuesday, but said upon further reflection, he’d changed his mind.
“I don’t think we went far enough with our cuts,” Hatfield said, urging commissioners to look for more places to trim the budget without further impacts on staff. “I’m concerned about our ability to make a tough decision.”
Clapper said she’d rather the county make additional cuts when it becomes clear they’re needed, rather than cut services now and face the possible expense of adding them back later.
“I don’t necessarily disagree with you that we may have to make more cuts,” she said.