Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors formally declared the countys budget deficit an emergency yesterday as a precursor to implementing layoffs and employee work-hour cuts.

We cant carry on with using phony numbers to make the budget work, so we drew the line in the sand and did what we had to do and it was tough, said Del Norte County Supervisor David Finigan.

County administrators must make every effort to balance the $1.7 million deficit by July 1, or illegally carry over the shortfall to the next fiscal year.

Closing county offices every other Friday at noon, thereby cutting employee hours by 5 percent per pay-period is one measure the county is taking.

Reducing the Sheriffs Department force by two positions is one other measure the Board of Supervisors approved yesterday.

Which positions will be eliminated has not been decided, however. County Administrative Officer Jeannine Galatioto is scheduled to meet with Sheriff Jim Maready today to come up with recommendations.

Ultimately, it will be the boards decision which positions to eliminate.

Employees of the county will also have $25 deducted from each paycheck to help pay for their health insurance benefits. They will also pay $100 more for their deductible if they get sick.

All of these changes will be implemented Jan. 18, according to Galatioto, even though the Del Norte County Employees Association has not agreed with them.

Obviously we are not happy with what happened (yesterday). We have made our opposition very clear with the county and we are now investigating all of our legal options, said Norma Williams of the DNCEA board.

Union president VeAnn Toreson requested the Board of Supervisors hold a special meeting with all county and sheriffs office employees to tell them why the changes are being made.

We would like employees to hear the boards take on this. The intent is to get questions answered from the board itself and not second-hand, said Toreson.

The board agreed to the request and set a tentative meeting time of 5:15 p.m. Jan. 15, though Supervisor Finigan was initially opposed.

The employees should have had ample opportunity to know whats going on. to explain whats already been explained is not productive, he said.

Finigan also pointed out that the changes are mainly a reduction of hours and will affect the general public, too.

What the public needs to understand is that on Friday paydays, at noon the doors to county offices will be closed.

What were talking about here is a reduction of services, Finigan said.

After the supervisors agreed to the meeting with county employees, all five supervisors separately volunteered to give up 5 percent of their own salaries in a show of solidarity with the employees.

That portion of their salaries will amount to $150 per month, per supervisor, or a total of $750 per month.

The adopted changes to decrease office hours and wages have an ending date of June 30, so far.

Office closures and employee hour-reductions will not be implemented at the Bar-O-Boys Ranch detention center or the Del Norte County Jail.

It is still in question how the courts, which are state-operated, will cooperate with the changes. The courts cooperation is a concern of the Del Norte County district attorneys office as staff in that office must follow the calendar of the court.