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Layoffs, furloughs possible for county workers

ELLSWORTH -- Proposed state funding cuts coupled with already-approved pay raises will mean a large gap in Pierce County's Human Services Department's budget, warns Director Tammy Kincaid.

The middle of last week that gap looked like it would be over $500,000. But late in the week, action by the state's Joint Finance Committee restored $166,000 in funding.

Kincaid said she has talked with union representatives about layoffs or the possibility of workers taking voluntary days off without pay. She expects the representatives will meet with union members to discuss the alternatives.

Since the state budget process is far from over, it's hard to tell what the final numbers will be. But it's apparent that there will be a significant gap.

"We're looking at some pretty tough budgeting in the next year," said Kincaid.

In action taken Friday, Joint Finance exempted economic support and children's services from an across-the-board five percent cut. The cut will apparently apply to other human services programs.

The Pierce County department plans to use 2009 carry-over funds to help plug the budget hole in 2010. There will be no carryover available for 2011, said Kincaid.

Wage increases already approved by the County Board and the unions will mean an additional $165,000 cost to the department, which has a budget of $6.5 million this year. About $2 million of that comes from the county property tax levy.

Nearly all the services her department provides are mandated, said Kincaid.

In other business last week, the County Board:

--Approved an amendment to the town of River Falls zoning ordinance to allow houses on Class 3 soils.

The previous ordinance language prohibited nonfarm buildings on Class 1, 2 or 3 soils in the Agricultural Residential District.

According to a county staff report, the new language would allow nonfarm structures on Class 3 soils if that would "result in less disturbance" than a compliant site. Also a site could be considered "compliant" if the building "touches" Class 4 soils.

--Approved a farmland preservation agreement for the Allen A. and Sylvia L. Anderson Family Trust. The 10-year agreement involves 280 acres in the town of Gilman.

The Wisconsin Farmland Preservation Program, created in 1977, provides tax breaks to farmers who work with local agencies to implement soil and water conservation practices.