Lewis County government layoffs all but a certainty

County officials have run out of creative ways to close what have become annual budget holes, making layoffs a certainty.

Dawna Truman, county budget/fiscal services director, said 15 positions will be eliminated to help free up $1.5 million for 2011. Another 15 to 20 positions could be cut depending on what new numbers look like next week, she added.

"We're going to lose some very good people," Truman said.

Employees won't be enough. Departments may have to look at cutting long-standing programs.

Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill said there have been talks about cutting the county's drug court and Washington State University extension. Shutting down the WSU extension would free up almost $225,000.

Putting a hold on the county's annual $250,000 contribution to the Southwest Washington Fair is also a real possibility.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," Averill said. "We're just throwing things around to see what they look like."

County commissioners are expected to vote on a measure in a week and a half to indefinitely shut down the county courthouse, health department and public service buildings on Fridays. It's unclear how big of a savings the move would bring. Some departments will still work 40-hour work weeks. But the decision won't all be about the dollars.

"I'll admit it," Averill said. "There's a message we're trying to tell the public."

This year's budget deficit is less than expected, but commissioners will likely use over $1.2 million in reserves to balance the 2010 budget.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.