FARMINGTON — San Juan County has frozen or abolished nearly 8 percent of its workforce since 2009.
"We're closing in on 10 percent in a reduction of our positions at San Juan County," County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said. "It's big."
On Wednesday, the county froze its 54th position — the sheriff's office public information officer, which was vacant. Beth Utley resigned from the position on Aug. 8.
The county employed 677 people as of Aug. 18.
"These further actions are a result of Senate Bill 268," Carpenter said.
Lawmakers passed that bill in the last legislative session. The bill created the Safety Net Care Pool, a statewide fund that helps New Mexico hospitals pay for uninsured care. The bill requires counties pay one-twelfth of 1 percent of their gross receipts taxes into the safety net pool.
San Juan County's payment is about $3 million. In addition to other obligations, the county's health care assistance program would experience about a $6.04 million deficit in fiscal year 2016, according to county documents.
To reduce this deficit, commissioners have been deciding whether to cut services, layoff employees, raise taxes or find a mix of those options. Commissioners are scheduled to consider three tax increases at their Tuesday meeting.
Carpenter said the county's budget was balanced before the Senate bill passed.
Since 2009, the county has frozen or abolished the following jobs in the following departments:
· 11 in public works,
· 10 in parks and facilities,
· five in central purchasing,
· four in the county executive office,
· three in the legal department,
· three in information technology,
· three in the adult detention center,
· three in juvenile services,
· two in the assessor's office,
· two in community development,
· two in solid waste,
· one in the clerks' office,
· one in the building inspection department,
· one in fire operations,
· one in human resources,
· one in the treasures' office
· and, the most recent, one in the sheriff's office
"We're talking a lot of jobs," Carpenter said.
The county has managed to reduce these jobs without significantly impacting citizens, he said. But, if the county needs to make more cuts, county residents' quality of life, he said, will be affected.
Employees are the county's greatest expense. Freezing or abolishing jobs eliminates paying wages, benefits, vacation and sick leave, he said.