More Eagle County cuts coming | VailDaily.com

More Eagle County cuts coming

EAGLE, Colorado – The county is prepared to pay some employees six months’ salary and 18 months’ benefits to convince them to go away.

Eagle County will have the same amount of money next year it had in 2005, but county workers face another round of layoffs. The county commissioners cut 32 jobs last year, some through early retirement buyouts and others through layoffs and jobs cuts.

County staffers face more of the same this year, and no one’s job is safe, according to an internal county memo obtained by the Vail Daily.

This year’s buyout program reaches all the way down the pay scale, with the best offer to staffers who are 50 years old and have 20 years with the county.

That top offer is for six months salary, 16 weeks’ contribution to the employee’s retirement account and 18 months of paid health insurance.

If you’ve been with the county between one and four years, the offer is eight weeks pay, 12 months of paid health insurance and eight weeks’ contribution to your retirement account.

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If they take the deal, county staffers are not eligible for unemployment, according to the internal memo.

The county is calling it the 2010 Early Retirement Incentive Program. County staffers have until Sept. 1 to make a decision.

“As part of an overall effort to reduce costs, the county will once again offer a voluntary retirement package to employees who meet certain age and years of service criteria,” Lisa Ponder, the county’s human resources director wrote in the internal memo.

By 2012, the county will have as much money to spend as it did in 2005, the memo said. That means $5 million less to the county’s general fund than county officials enjoyed during the recent run-up in real estate prices.

Those higher property values meant higher property tax revenues to the county. Most county staffers are paid through those property tax revenues.

With the downturn in the market, property values are down as much as 30 percent, according to preliminary calculations from the county assessor’s office. That means the county is facing a 30 percent budget cut over the next two years.

The county commissioners are not allowed to raise property tax rates without a public vote, under Colorado’s TABOR Amendment. The commissioners, along with most of the county’s 82 other governments that take a bite from your property tax bill, let the money roll in while property values were soaring.

No one’s job is safe, the memo said.

“It is important to understand that continued employment with the county is never guaranteed,” Ponder wrote. “If the efforts of the county, including the early retirement package, do not produce the necessary cost savings, an involuntary approach may be needed.”

“The involuntary approach could impact any employee’s employment,” Ponder wrote.