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FC board asks for one-week furloughs

By Staff | Apr 27, 2009

Commissioner Tom Loveall

The Faribault County Board of Commissioners is moving ahead with trimming its budget by asking all of its employees to take unpaid one-week furloughs. Plus, it is asking all of the elected officials to take a 3-percent pay cut.

The cut includes the commissioners themselves. Four of the five at last Tuesday’s meeting agreed to do it. Commissioner Butch Erichsrud was absent from the meeting.

In addition, County Sheriff Mike Gormley, County Attorney Brian Roverud and County Auditor/Treasurer John Thompson, who were at the meeting, all said yes to the cut.

Since many of the county’s employees are members of four unions, this has involved contract negotiations in the decision.

Two of the four unions have agreed to the furlough. The other two have not yet responded to the board’s letter.

In the letter, the board says the furloughs are necessary in order to prevent personnel layoffs.

Auditor Thompson told the board that the one week unpaid furloughs would be the equivalent of a 2.7-percent pay cut, very similar to the 3-percent cut elected officials were taking.

“If we get all of the unions to agree, and everyone takes the cut or the leave of absence, we will trim $115,000 to $200,000 from the budget,” Thompson told the board. The board felt that would be enough to guarantee no layoffs.

The two unions which have agreed to the furloughs represent the jailers and the county engineer department.

The jailers are represented by the Teamsters Union, and they added a twist to the original proposal, according to Brenda Ripley of the county’s central services office.

“The Teamsters are either going to take the furlough, or they will not take seven days of their 11 holiday days of pay,” Ripley said. “That way they will still be able to staff the jail on the 24-hour basis.”

Commissioners Tom Loveall and Tom Warmka praised the union’s response.

“I have to applaud them and give them high kudos,” Loveall said. Warmka added he was pleased they are answering the challenge.

The board decided to move ahead with a notice of layoffs for the departments covered by the two unions who have not responded about accepting the furloughs.Commissioner Warmka questioned whether the board actually needed to do this or not, and wondered if they were acting like a bully.

“This is not an act of war,” Loveall said. “It takes 14 days for the notice to take effect, and we need to move ahead with it. If the two unions respond positively, we can call off the layoff notice.”

Commissioner John Roper agreed.

“We need to be fair to everyone,” he said. “We either have to get the furloughs, or start with layoffs.”

The board indicated that department heads would be in charge of scheduling the furloughs, so that no loss of services would be involved.

An agenda item involving other cuts to the budget was postponed until the next meeting when all five commissioners could be present. Erichsrud was absent and Warmka had to leave the meeting early, leaving only three members present.

“I feel we need all five here for this discussion,” Commissioner Bill Groskreutz said. “I know Butch and Tom have some input on these budget items.”

The board did authorize some expenditures, all involving the new law enforcement center.

They agreed on spending $1,673 for additional sidewalks, $2,638 for tinting the windows in the pod area, and $6,140 for installing a fiber optic line.

Sheriff Gormley said the line is necessary for communications between the courthouse and the new jail. He also said there is a monthly fee of $489 for the line, but half of that will be paid by the state. Commissioner Loveall called the tinted windows a big savings over installing one-way glass.

Loveall called all three “necessary infrastructure,” and the board unanimously approved all the items.

They also discussed what is needed for landscaping around the new LEC, and instructed Gormley to get bids on several of the proposed projects.

“We have a serious erosion problem out there, and we need to get that taken care of first,” Loveall said.

The board discussed contacting the Soil and Water Board and the county engineer for assistance in some of the work. There is a plan for a rain garden at the new center. Another suggestion had to do with having a local master gardener help plan the area, and have some of the work done by Sentenced to Serve persons.

“We need to get some of this done before heavy rains come and we have one big mess out there,” Loveall said.