As many as 700 Tuolumne County employees will take two unpaid days off Dec. 26 and Jan. 16 as part of efforts to make up for $3.8 million the county will lose because of the repealed vehicle license fee increase.

In what Chairman Mark Thornton called a "horrible action," the county's Board of Supervisors yesterday unanimously ordered two furlough days, when all but the most essential employees, such as those in health and public safety, will stay home.

All county buildings, including libraries, youth centers, administrative buildings and planning offices will be closed on those days, resulting in savings of up to payroll $150,000, said county Administrator Brent Wallace.

Supervisors had been asked to approve two specific days the 26th and Jan. 4 because many people already take them as paid vacation.

But several people attending yesterday's special meeting suggested the reduction in pay be more spread out.

"We understand that no one wants to be here today," said Robin Wood, county senior planner and president of the county's professional bargaining unit. "Some of our employees are not highly paid employees they live from paycheck to paycheck."

"I think all five of us are very sympathetic to what this means, especially around the holidays," said Supervisor Dick Pland, before the group agreed to change the date of the second furlough day.

The furlough days might be particularly unwelcome to those employees who have already had vacation pay approved for Dec. 26: They will no longer be paid on that day.

Vehicle license fees fund several county services, such as public health, social services, mental health and the county's general fund. Wallace distributed a handout to supervisors showing the discrepancy between money received from last year's vehicle fees and this year. This month, the county's general fund has received $61,094.77, compared to December 2002's $263,426.87.