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Clay County eyes salary holidays

MOORHEAD - Clay County may ask employees to reduce hours as a way to help the county address revenue shortfalls that could hit $1 million or more.

Clay County commissioners heard Tuesday from County Administrator Vijay Sethi and Human Resources Director Kari Alm, who have asked employees for suggestions on ways to reduce spending.

One idea would be a so-called salary holiday, where workers take time off without pay.

"I would say 60 to 65 percent (of workers) who sent in suggestions seem to be in favor of looking at that, certainly, in lieu of job cuts," Alm said.

Another suggestion from workers: allow employees to work temporary part-time hours - with benefits - for as long as the budget crisis lasts.

Alm provided the board with calculations showing how much money a salary holiday would save the county.

If all employees - including union workers - worked half a day less each month, the county would save $342,000 between April and the end of December, Alm said.

The savings would double if each employee took a full day off each month.

The savings if nonunion employees take a half day once

a month would be $209,000 for the same time period. The savings would double for a full day a month.

Officials said bargaining units would have to agree to the change before union employees could be included.

Sethi stressed that other options will be explored first.

He said other moves being considered include raising some fees and reducing some services.

Sethi said more detailed options will be presented at a future meeting.

Board Chairman Jerry Waller questioned why Clay County has not come up with definite plans for reducing spending when nearby counties have already done so.

"I think we're not acting quickly enough to address the problem," Waller said.

"We are trying to do it in a coordinated fashion, so that everyone is on board," Sethi said.

In other business, the planners of Lakeswind Power Plant, one of a number of wind farms proposed for Clay County, asked the commission for a letter of support.

The letter is not needed for approval of the project, which needs a permit from the state, but commissioners said they wanted to hear from officials from other counties about their experiences with wind farms before voting on the request.