BELFAST, Maine — Waldo County commissioners said Thursday they have furloughed three non-essential county employees ahead of possible revenue shortfalls.
The affected employees work in the registry of deeds, probate court and in the facilities department, according to Commissioner Bill Shorey.
Although they won’t draw county paychecks, they are eligible for unemployment and their health insurance will continue to be paid by the county, Shorey said, adding that when the economy recovers “a little bit,” they will be called back.
“We’ve got to do it as a preemptive move,” Shorey said. “We’ve got to slim down, every little bit we can.”
Waldo County employs more than 90 workers, and funds those positions through a portion of the property taxes that are collected by municipalities. Shorey said if cash-strapped property owners have a difficult time paying their taxes, the financial pain will trickle down to municipalities.
“It’s a big domino effect, and eventually it winds up on everybody’s doorstep. Cities, fire departments, places like that, it’s going to be hard to get the funds. We’re not looking at a very rosy picture going forward,” he said. “Waldo County is probably in as good a shape financially as any county in the state of Maine, but we’re being very careful about what we spend. We don’t want to waste a dollar if we don’t have to.”
The 2020 Waldo County budget totals $9.55 million.
Commissioner Betty Johnson said the county is working to be more fiscally efficient by combining some positions and rewriting some job descriptions.
“Does this really need to be a full-time position? Can it be part-time? Can it be combined with anything else? This is all, I think, good stuff,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that people will lose their jobs or anything like that … We’re looking at everything. This is a chance for us to just look at what we are, what we do, and what we need, and how it can be run more efficiently.”
For the moment, many county employees are working from home while their offices are closed to the public. Others are using saved-up personal and vacation time, rather than going on furlough.
“We’re still being able to take care of the essential needs,” Johnson said.