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Budget cuts could cost 21 York County jobs

York County Manager Jim Baker will recommend laying off 21 county employees to help make up an expected shortfall of up to $8 million in next year's budget, according to an e-mail he sent to County Council members Friday.

Baker has proposed eliminating 40 positions, including 19 that are unfilled, according to the e-mail. Those cuts would save more than $2 million in salaries and benefits.

More than half of the layoffs would be in the county's planning department, where 12 employees would lose their jobs. Three employees in the engineering department also would be laid off.

Baker's e-mail noted that the demand for permits, plan reviews and inspections has dropped by at least 50 percent during the last two years.

"Therefore, cuts in the planning and engineering departments reflect this significant drop in service demand," he wrote. "While we fully expect the construction market to rebound over time, it is apparent this may take years to fully accomplish."

If residential and commercial construction increase, he said, the county could adjust.

Baker will propose the layoffs May 3 when he recommends a budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. Final decisions about layoffs will be made by the County Council.

The total proposed county budget for 2010-2011 was not included in Baker's e-mail. The county's current general fund budget is $88.3 million.

Three County Council members contacted Friday indicated the layoffs are unavoidable because of the economy. Chairman Buddy Motz, Joe Cox and Paul Lindemann said they opposed raising taxes to balance the budget.

Baker also plans to recommend no merit pay raises for county employees, Motz said. It would be the second straight year that employees did not receive those raises.

Baker would not discuss details of his proposal Friday, saying he wanted to first meet with all employees whose jobs might be eliminated. His e-mail to the County Council said all of those workers had been contacted.

Besides the planning and engineering departments, other layoffs include two in the "Pennies for Progress" department and one each in public safety communications, fire prevention, information systems, and water and sewer.

The county has about 900 employees.

York County officials have blamed the expected shortfall on a decrease in state funding and slow growth. State funding is down roughly 36 percent from 2008, and state budget cuts account for about $1 million of the county's losses for the 2011 fiscal year.

The construction slowdown has stunted the amount of fees received from building permits and inspections.