By Krista J. Kapralos Herald Writer
EVERETT — Dozens of people were expected to clean out their desks on Wednesday and leave their jobs at Snohomish County government, but others are still waiting to find out whether they’ll be able to stick around through 2009.
About 160 positions were cut from the county’s general fund budget, which was slashed because of a projected $21 million revenue shortfall. The County Council in November approved a $206 million general fund budget for 2009. Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Somers has estimated that about half of those positions were vacant when cuts were made.
The exact number of people who have been or will be asked to leave isn’t clear, said Christopher Schwarzen, a spokesman for county Executive Aaron Reardon. Unionized employees are working through “bumping rights” and other seniority issues, he said.
An additional 55 people were laid off in the county’s Planning Department, which was throttled by a slowdown in building permits, a major source of the office’s funding.
Dozens of planning workers were saved from being laid off when county leaders created an employee loan program and sent them to the Public Works Department, which is funded through county fees and other dollars. Public Works might be able to take more county workers from other departments in the coming weeks, Schwarzen said.
“That could save a few more jobs,” he said. “The total number of layoffs is still in flux.”
The County Council asked every elected leader and department head to submit plans to cut at least 9 percent of their budgets.
In total, Reardon’s staff will shrink by three administrative assistants. “We’ve saved $21,000 in addition to our 9 percent,” Reardon said.
Deanna Dawson, Reardon’s executive director, resigned in late November to take a job in Washington, D.C. Her resignation helped trim the department’s budget, Reardon said.
Wednesday marked the end of a difficult year in county government, which was rocked in recent months by the worst economic downturn county leaders say they’ve seen in decades.
The 10 percent cuts approved by the council in November might not be enough to balance the budget. County leaders say more layoffs could be coming over the next few months.
County leaders are still negotiating with local union officials over whether to approve 10-day unpaid furloughs for county workers.
Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.