A leaner look in store for county government | SummitDaily.com

A leaner look in store for county government

summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – Summit County Government has begun the process of restructuring staff positions and responsibilities to compensate for the loss of 10 employees laid off last week.

Among those let go were assistant county manager of community services Steve Hill and director of social services Susan Gruber. Both had a long tenure with the county.

A new health and human services position was created through the restructuring process as well. Deb Crook, the former director of the Summit County Public Health Department, will take the job which includes some of the assistant county manager’s responsibilities as well as all of the social services director’s duties. The rest of Hill’s responsibilities were split between the two remaining assistant county managers, Scott Vargo and Thad Noll.

The community development sector will also see some changes, with the engineering/solid waste director, an engineering permit technician, a building inspection office manager and one planner position eliminated.

“Planning, they’re taking on some of the engineering duties for the engineering people that were laid off,” County Manager Gary Martinez said. “So they’ve taken on some additional responsibilities, but it’s also at a time when their activity level has dropped some. Because of the whole downturn in the economy, we’re not getting 100 plus new building permits a year for single-family homes.”

A total of 24 county positions were impacted by $1.35 million in personnel cuts.

Many of the employees laid off as a result of the cuts will stay on as late as December, finishing up projects and helping their successors transition.

Rumors that employees who were laid off were not treated respectfully have circulated since the cuts were announced last week. But both Martinez and Vargo maintain that all staffers whose jobs were eliminated were informed in person and were treated professionally.

Employees whose jobs were not affected by the reductions are now trying to adjust to the new structure.

“It’s a bit of a whirlwind, trying to get up to speed on the variety of departments that are going to be under my authority,” said Vargo, who now oversees the ambulance and the library – previously Hill’s responsibilities. “It’s really just trying to understand what are the big priority issues that are going on right now.”

The staff reductions are part of extensive county budget cuts made in preparation for an expected 20 percent decrease in property tax revenues coming in 2012. Property values are evaluated over a two-year period that ends a year prior to when the property taxes based on those evaluations are actually collected. As a result, 2012 will be the first year property taxes will reflect the drastic drop in values that began in 2008 due to the recession and housing market bust. With sales tax and permit incomes at an all-time low, this means the county’s budget crisis is just beginning.

The 2011 budget carries a first round of budget cuts that will continue in 2012 to make up for the current and pending loss in revenue.

“We have made budget reductions that are getting kind of a running start for 2012,” Martinez said. “It was going to be too much of a hit to the 2012 budget all by itself to take the reduction. We had to start making the savings, frankly, immediately.”

Budget reductions for 2011 also include $635,000 in operational reductions. Most of the cuts are minor and internal, but they do include shortened library hours. Martinez said other than the library’s shortened hours, there are no plans yet to cut back on public services.

“For instance, we are not looking, at this point, unless the budget gets a whole lot worse, at cutting back on snowplowing,” Martinez said.

But additional cuts, which could impact county services and additional jobs, are likely. Martinez said decisions about further cuts would be made in the next three or four months.

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