The Gila County Supervisors this week came eyeball to eyeball with a four-day work week to save on utility costs and ended up blinking like crazy.
A survey of county employees showed that more than half support shifting to four, 10-hour days so the county could save on heating and lighting costs on Fridays.
However, the Board of Supervisors voted to put off a decision for a couple of months to give staff time to study the issue and figure out how much money the county would actually save.
Supervisor Tommie Martin guessed the county might save $30,000, a relative pittance in the county’s $100 million budget.
However, she said she had “pulled that estimate out of my thumb.”
Supervisor Shirley Dawson pushed for the proposal, which would only have affected about one-third of the county’s nearly 400 employees — since two-thirds of the county’s employees work in the sheriff’s office or the courts.
“If we don’t figure out some kind of savings, where else are we going to make up the loss” of state funds and local tax revenue. She suggested the county might have to have to consider layoffs.
But Supervisor Mike Pastor objected to any talk of layoffs, for fear of the impact on employees. “That’s just inappropriate.”
“We can’t put ourselves in the position of the state and start selling our property. The recovery is not in effect at this time and we’re seeing the effect of a down economy,” countered Dawson, whose Globe and San Carlos Apache Reservation-based district also includes Star Valley.
“I understand your point,” said Pastor, whose district is centered on Globe, Superior and Miami, “but I’m saying there’s more to it than asking 370 employees what they think of a four-day week. I don’t think we can say that just because we have 188 employees in favor of a four-day week we can just go and do it.”
Supervisor Tommie Martin, whose district includes the bulk of Rim Country, said shifting to a four-day work week won’t save much money but might inconvenience the public.
“I’d like to see some real figures. I would like to ask the public — I think we’ll be hearing ‘why are you closed on Friday,’ rather than ‘thanks for staying open late.’”
In the face of the questions from the other board members, Dawson said “we can refer this back to committee to see if it kills itself.”
“That would be good,” said Martin.
Pastor said the staff should look at all the alternatives and estimate cost savings. “I’ve seen all kinds of studies. There are all kinds of options.”
The Town of Payson and both Santa Cruz and Navajo County have all gone to four, 10-hour days to save on the costs of keeping buildings open on Fridays.
Gila County administrators reported to the board that neither Santa Cruz nor Navajo County have yet tallied up their savings, but both have had various problems with shutting down many county offices on Fridays including “substantial push back” from the public.
The proposal represented a more symbolic that substantial attempt to deal with the worrisome projects for the county’s $100 million budget, most of which goes for the sheriff’s department, courts and health care for the poor.
The county entered the recession with a substantial reserve, which has been whittled away in the past two years.
The county has lost property tax revenue but actually enjoyed a 15 percent increase in assessed value, thanks in large measure to new mine projects in the southern portion of the county.
Still, Rim Country accounts for two-thirds of the county’s revenue, although the county seat remains in Globe and the adroit drawing of district lines means that two of the three supervisorial districts are dominated by voters in Globe and the San Carlos Apache Reservation.