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Placer County shuts doors until Tuesday

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County offices at its North Auburn administrative center were shut Thursday for the Lincoln’s birthday holiday and its parking lots emptied during the first of a five-day stretch of closures. Through a combination of statutory holidays and budget-cutting measures, county offices will remain closed through Tuesday. A budget-cutting furlough takes place today, an unpaid day off for most of the county’s 2,400 employees. Emergency personnel, including the sheriff’s department and fire stations, will continue working. One of the few members of the public at North Auburn’s Placer County Government Center, Jay Gaddie scraped at the damp earth in the senior’s community garden to establish some furrows before the expected rains bore down. Semi-retired, Gaddie said he could see the hard times now upon government as well as individuals. “It’s been a long time coming,” Gaddie said. “And I understand (the furloughs). It’s best if it doesn’t have to happen but you’ve got choices. No matter what they make, someone is going to be unhappy.” The Placer Public Employees Organization has filed a complaint with the state over the furloughs and this past week asked supervisors to work with the union on ways to circumvent a possible next step in budget cuts. Business Representative Chuck Thiel said planning department workers had already been put on notice that there would be layoffs. A response from county CEO Tom Miller’s office neither confirmed or denied the union’s contention. All county emergency response and 24-hour-a-day services will continue uninterrupted, including law enforcement and emergency support to individuals, such as child protective services. No Placer County Transit bus services will be available Monday. However, transit services in North Lake Tahoe will continue unaffected, according to a statement by the county. The closure today is one of four days the Board of Supervisors targeted in December for closure of county offices to shore up a budget that has seen revenues drop due to the plunging regional economy. The county’s estimate is that about 2,200 employees, including confidential and management employees, will take the unpaid, mandatory time off. One furlough day was already taken Dec. 26. Others are scheduled for April 13 and May 22. The furlough savings partially fill what was anticipated in December to be a $9.6 million loss in revenue for the year ending in June. The county adopted an $865 million spending plan last September and has been dealing with losses in property taxes and sales taxes since then. The four days are expected to save about $2 million. Combined with the use of reserves, cancellation of road fund expenditures, savings from 20 more vacant and retirement positions and cuts in services and supplies, the furloughs are intended to patch up the budget gap for the year. Supervisor Jim Holmes said that staff is preparing spending plans for each department as planning is already underway on the 2009-10 budget. Plans are to have a revenue and expenditure road map in place in June, he said. County libraries normally open Saturdays will re-open for regular Saturday hours after the Friday furlough closure. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.