County employees don't like the idea of a five-day furlough, but many said yesterday that it's better than having no job.
"It's probably like a prisoner on death row -- we all got a reprieve," said VickiTaylor, who works in the finance department. "Now, it's up to (Gov. William Donald) Schaefer" to decide if the budget will be cut more.
Taylor's reaction came in response to County Executive Charles I.Ecker's announcement yesterday that the county's 1,650 full-time employees will be furloughed for five days to help make up for a budget shortfall. Ecker proposed the furlough days be Dec. 23, 24 and 25 andJan. 1 and 15.
"We were all relieved that we're not going to loseour jobs yet," said Carmen Mahabal, a central services employee. "The thing I feared was the layoffs."
The County Council still must approve the furloughs, which would save the county an estimated $1 million.
Ecker has raised property taxes, laid off 40 employees, eliminated raises and reduced spending on services by 12 percent to deal with a $14.5 million shortfall for the budget year that began July 1.
"I feel that furloughs were the right way to go so county employees don't lose their jobs," said Jean Reed, a 20-year county employee."I don't like it, but it's better than layoffs."
Reed said most employees she's talked to feel the same way.
"I'm happy that it wasfurloughs instead of layoffs. It's 200 percent better than layoffs,"said Eileen Skidmore, a budget office employee.
"I know that (Ecker) was stressed about the budget, and it
was a difficult situation. But given the state of the economy, I'm much happier to be furloughed instead of being laid off with little hope of getting any other employment."
The five-day furloughs will reduce county employees' annual salaries by 2 percent.
"It's spreading it out to everyone, not just a few will have to take it," said Susan Sullivan, a three-year finance office employee.
The dates of the furloughs may allow people to take some time and visit family out of state, Skidmore said. No employee complained about the choice of days for furloughs.
"The days of the furlough was secondary in everyone's mind," Mahabal said.
"If they would give us off Christmas week, that would be fine, but the way they're doing it is fine," Taylor said. "With the economythe way it is, we don't need any more people out there looking for jobs."
The threat of county layoffs will continue if the state imposes more cuts.
"If they pass more budget cuts to the county, Eckermay have no other choice," said Eric Marburger, a personnel employee. But for now, Marburger said he's happy no employees lost their jobs.
"Taking a 2 percent pay cut is a whole lot better than 20 or 30 people losing their jobs," Marburger said.