Amid brutal budget shortfalls, Tooele County officials announced another round of layoffs Wednesday.
The 11 employees that staff the county's relief services, food bank, transitional housing and domestic violence assistance programs will be terminated as of May 15, and the nonprofit Valley Mental Health will take over operation of these services the following day, according to a county statement released shortly after 5 p.m.
Valley Mental Health will then launch a hiring process to fill at least 11 full- and part-time positions, the statement said.
"We hope they'll hire the same people because we'd like those future-former county employees to be hired again. But they will have to compete for those slots," Tooele County Public Information Officer Wade Mathews said.
The new partnership is expected to save tax dollars while expanding services, but commissioners lacked exact numbers Wednesday, Mathews said.
The latest reduction in force follows on the heels of other difficult decisions the financially strapped county has been forced to make.
Last year, the county laid off 50 workers, with another 28 taking early retirement or reduced hours and pay. Several factors led to these cuts, including markedly reduced mitigation fees from hazardous waste storage and disposal, the end of federal money from weapons that had been stored at Deseret Chemical Depot, and the county jail housing fewer federal inmates than projected.
This year's $20 million budget is down from $22.8 million in 2012, Mathews said, and several million below the lucrative days of 2005 when mitigation fees fed the county $12 million compared to 2012's $3 million.
In early March, Tooele County let go another 23 employees who had populated its parks and recreation and building maintenance divisions, leaving two department heads to oversee work that would be farmed out to contract service and temporary employees.
Sequestration across-the-board federal budget cuts enacted March 1 is also taking a financial toll, Mathews said. About $200,000 less is expected from payments in lieu of taxes for federally owned land, and the county's three military installations are experiencing cuts and furloughs.
"We haven't raised taxes for nearly 25 years. That will probably be a future step," Mathews said, noting that commissioners are considering an 82-percent increase in the portion of property tax levied by the county, but hope to lower that figure through further belt-tightening.
Chamber rescues cancelled fair
Late last month, Tooele County cancelled its annual August fair for the first time in the event's more than 60-year history. At Tuesday's commission meeting, Tooele County Chamber of Commerce members pledged to produce the celebration this year.
"A lot of people are hurting and morale is low," the Chamber's Executive Director Jared Hamner said. "We thought, 'we can do this' with our expertise and the volunteerism that we have in this county."