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County reduces workforce as last step in decreasing deficit before budget presentation

(2/25)  When members of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners were sworn in on December 1, 2010, they knew that swift and decisive action would be necessary to address a looming Frederick County budget crisis of $11.8 million for FY2012 and in years to come.

In the past two months alone, the board reorganized and consolidated the Fire and Rescue Services, Interagency Information Technologies, Planning, Permitting and Development Review, and Economic Development Divisions within Frederick County Government to increase operational efficiencies and achieve financial savings toward reducing the deficit.

In that same timeframe, the board relinquished the Head Start grant back to the federal government and formed a Public-Private Partnership Committee to explore ways to privatize county programs and services.

In the next step to reduce the budget deficit, the board today announced a reduction to the Frederick County Government workforce of 38 full-time positions, a move that impacts employees in almost all divisions.

Board President Blaine Young said, "We are exploring every opportunity to reduce our deficit and correct the structural problem where we’re spending more money than we’re taking in. As a result of our recent actions, the county commissioners will be able to present a balanced budget on March 8 without raising property taxes or the fire tax.

"We deeply regret that the budget crisis has necessitated today’s action to reduce our workforce, but the reality we faced is that salaries and benefits account for a large part of the county budget and had to be decreased. At the beginning of this year we notified employees that difficult decisions would be made; we commend them for doing more with less and continuing to provide outstanding service to our residents."

The personnel changes announced today that effect primarily middle management positions result in a reduction in salary and benefits of over $2.4 million beginning in FY2012. Of the 38 full-time positions eliminated, 23 were filled positions and 15 were vacant. Of those, 14 were management positions.

Recent actions to decrease the size of the county government workforce through division reorganizations and the relinquishment of the Head Start grant have resulted in the elimination of 88 positions with another 15 demoted or downgraded.

The total employee workforce reduction and the savings realized in the past two months includes 106 full-time employees in previously filled positions at $4.8 million and 20 full-time employees in previously vacant positions at $1.4 million. A total of 126 full-time positions were impacted for an estimated reduction in the budget deficit by $6.2 million.

The commissioners have reduced the county’s budgeted positions/workforce by seven percent since December 1. That number includes the staff-recommended elimination of 34 firefighter positions that will be included in the upcoming budget presentation.

Prior to the announcement today, each county division director was required to submit a list of positions to be considered for dismissal through a reorganization plan or reduction in workforce. A review committee consisting of the county manager, assistant county manager, human resources director, finance director and budget officer conducted a thorough review of each position based on the impact on services to the citizens or program operations.

The previous board balanced the FY2011 budget using many one-time revenue sources, but the current board has had to identify permanent expenditure reductions in order to reduce the county’s structural deficit. The actions taken were considered critical for reestablishing the future budget health of Frederick County.

The employees impacted by the elimination of positions will receive severance pay and payment for their accrued leave, continuation of their health insurance for one month and assistance from Frederick County Workforce Services Department. No further employee reductions will take place at this time unless the state moves to impact services and/or programs or imposes teacher pensions on the counties, thus forcing the commissioners to readdress Frederick County’s budget.

In consideration of the personal impact that job eliminations and salary reductions will have on employees, those affected are notified in advance before the county issues a press release. This notification process provides information to the public and media representatives promptly, while treating the employees with respect and consideration for their personal interests.