County unpaid days on hold

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By ERIN MAYES

Tuolumne County employees might not have to take a second unpaid day off after all.

County Administrator Brent Wallace told the county supervisors and a packed house yesterday that the second furlough day, scheduled for Jan. 16, could be canceled.

The mandatory unpaid days off Dec. 26 and Jan. 16 were approved by the board to save money after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed the increase in vehicle license fees.

VLF fees help fuel the county's general, health, mental health and social services funds.

The county stands to lose almost $3.6 million if cash is not found somewhere else in the state budget.

Now, the county can only wait and see if Schwarzenegger sets aside money for California's counties in the 2004-05 preliminary budget, scheduled for release Friday. Once the county has the forecast, it can decide on furlough days and other cost-saving measures.

The board had been scheduled yesterday to talk about enacting three additional furlough days (savings: $200,000). Also to be discussed were "technical layoffs," in which employees would not actually be let go, but would have to take several unpaid days off, such as every Friday for 10 weeks.

Additionally, the board was to consider possible pay cuts and an early retirement program.

But those topics were put on hold.

Between 600 and 700 employees took the first furlough day off on Dec. 26. Wallace said the unpaid day off, when combined with the Jan. 16 furlough day, could save the county as much as $150,000.

Every county employee excluding emergency personnel at the Sheriff's Department, Tuolumne General Hospital participated in the first furlough.

About 300 of the furloughed employees are salaried. The rest are paid hourly.

The board will discuss furloughs again on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Contact Erin Mayes at emayes@uniondemocrat.com .

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