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Island County slashes positions

A total of 16 full-time and part-time Island County employees will be laid off June 1. An additional seven positions will be eliminated through attrition and 19 employees will have reduced work hours.

The Island County commissioners officially and unanimously adopted a resolution amending the 2009 budget Monday morning. Just over $1 million in cuts were made, plus $1 million in reserve will be used to fill the $2 million budget hole.

Nearly $800,000 in reductions came from salaries and benefits, which means jobs.

“I just want to express how incredibly sad it was to lose such a large part of our county family,” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow handed out documents and graphs that summarized the long list of reductions. A handful of county employees were in the audience, but nobody spoke during the public hearing.

Marlow explained that county staff will be reduced by 22.55 “full-time equivalents.” That translates to 18 full-time and five part-time positions, including seven unfilled positions. Sixteen people working today will no longer have jobs at the end of the month.

Marlow said 19 employees will end up working fewer hours this year through furlough days or reduced hours each workday.

This round of budget cuts comes after the commissioners chopped $2 million in expenses last December. A total of 31 “full-time equivalents” were cut at that time.

The county staffing, Marlow said, has basically been cut by 10 percent this year. And that includes a 6.4 FTE increase in human services, which is funded by a new sales tax and grants.

“We’ve started cutting into the very backbone of government services,” Marlow said.

Commissioner Angie Homola stressed that she and fellow commissioners are committed to ensuring public safety. She said the sheriff hasn’t experienced a net loss of deputies because of budget cuts this year; two new deputies were laid off while they were still in the academy.

“We had 41 (deputies) when we started and we have 41 now,” she said. “It sends a good message to the public that that’s important to us.”

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