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Seven Placer County workers face layoff ax

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Layoffs could be in store for seven of its 2,222 employees as Placer County tightens up its spending plan for the coming year. But a labor leader is suggesting that the county needs to make more cuts at the top. Graham Knaus, finance and budget operations manager, outlined a budget blueprint Tuesday to the Placer County Board of Supervisors that will allow the county to remain buoyant until state lawmakers come up with an answer to California’s projected $28 billion deficit. Knaus said the county was within $1 million of moving forward with a balanced budget plan for the new fiscal year that starts in July. But there are still substantial risks to county revenues posed by the pending state budget, he said. An updated analysis of the current state budget proposals indicate from $30 million to $60 million in direct county funding and increased responsibilities would be affected, the board was told. Over the past three years, Placer County has laid off 17 employees. Its current work force is 2,222 – down from 2,542 in 2007 through mostly attrition and retirements. The seven laid-off workers would result from a reduction in staffing in land-development areas. Those departments include planning and building divisions but no actual staff members or positions facing layoffs were made public at Tuesday’s board meeting. “As a reflection of the economy, service areas that had been experiencing the greatest demands five years ago have been and continue to be faced with sharply declining revenues and workload,” Knaus reported to the board. “This has been most apparent in the land-development areas and it has largely been resolved through attrition and targeted staffing reductions over the past three years.” But existing land-development revenues are insufficient to fund services at current staffing levels in all development areas, putting up to seven employees at risk in several departments, Knaus said. Chuck Thiel, business agent for Stationary Engineers Local 39, told supervisors that it wouldn’t be unexpected to see the county again end up with a surplus at the end of this fiscal year that could have been applied to address perceived funding shortfalls. Thiel said that Placer County has retained an inordinate proportion of managers to rank-and-file workers. It’s one manager to every 8 employees while the normal rate would be one manager to 14, he said. And when asked how many of the 17 employees already laid off were management, the staff reply was one. Thiel, whose union negotiates for the Placer Public Employees Organization suggested the county look at reassigning employees to other areas of work or starting up a program approved last year but not yet instituted that provides departing employees with additional compensation for voluntarily leaving.