FALLON, Nev. (AP) - Officials at the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District said a budget shortfall and the economic recession left them no choice but to slash the agency's work force by more than half.
At a special meeting Monday, board members unanimously approved laying off 23 of the district's 44 positions.
"It's important to look at this and this action to protect and defend the vitality of TCID," said Ernie Schank, board president.
Project Manager Dave Overvold said immediate action was difficult but necessary.
"This proposal is not easy for us to prepare because there are a lot of people involved, and we're a close group," Overvold said. "This is very difficult."
The district will lay off 15 employees from the operations department, which includes ditch riders. The maintenance department loses four personnel, the shop and hydroelectric department loses one employee, the office staff will lose two workers and a management position was eliminated.
Overvold said he and staff projected the work that needs to be completed during the off-season, and enough personnel will remain on staff to handle emergency situations.
The board also is considering other cost-cutting measures, including negotiating with the employees association to eliminate dependent health care coverage and eliminating local legal counsel.
Overvold initially said the actions would save the district about $700,000. But another board member, David Stix Jr., noted projected savings of $290,000 by cutting dependent health coverage could not be factored before negotiations with the employees association, scheduled for March, take place.
Other cost-cutting measures the district has taken include a hiring freeze and postponing the replacement of equipment. Overvold said the district would also consider voluntary leaves of absence and exit incentives to further trim its work force.
Lester de Braga, board treasurer, said TCID dipped into its reserves to get $1.6 million to carry it through fiscal year 2008. While TCID paid back $300,000 to the reserve fund, it spent the same amount on temporary repairs to the Truckee Canal.
The fiscal year 2009 budget does not include repayment to TCID's reserve fund, which is now approximately $1.2 million, de Braga said.
Because less water flowed through Lahontan Reservoir this year, TCID received less revenue from its three hydroelectric plants. The District General Assessment, instituted in August, brought in fewer funds than anticipated, de Braga said, and the cost or funding source of the permanent fix to the Truckee Canal remain unknown.
Information from: Lahontan Valley News, http://www.lahontanvalleynews.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)