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Our View: Economic downturn forcing government to cut staffing levels

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We're all feeling the pinch. High fuel prices, an uptick in grocery expenses and the continual fallout from the housing slump have touched almost every family in the region. We've all had to adjust. And just like our households, local government leaders and educators must cut spending and do more with less, because of budget deficiencies. Cities, counties and schools are all facing budget cuts in order to survive these tough financial times. The city, county and local schools have all rightfully begun making the hard decisions on where to cut back while at the same time providing necessary services. The city of Auburn, facing a loss of tax revenue and other financial constraints, is looking to lay off seven staff in different areas to help offset looming structural financial issues that the city has shouldered for the last decade, according to City Manager Bob Richardson. While the city has been preparing for a shortfall, the state's economic woes have exacerbated the situation, making layoffs a necessity to get Auburn through the tough times. The proposed cuts would include the airport manager, janitorial services and some office assistant and facility maintenance positions. Essential police and fire services have not been touched, however, thus balancing the need for cuts with the necessity of keeping the citizenry safe. Auburn will also be offering a two-year retirement service credit as part of an overall severance package for which eight employees are eligible. The program would cost $276,000 initially, but ultimately it would save Auburn some $640,000 annually if all eligible employees take part in the program. And in rough economic times, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars is critical to Auburn's future. Placer County has its own budget crisis and leaders there are also doing what they can to reduce spending while keeping essential services going. The county is currently leaving more than 100 positions open to help offset costs. When it comes to education, an area hard hit by the state's budget woes, schools are looking for ways to cut costs while trying to keep offering services that are a must to educating our children ” one of the toughest tasks faced by local public officials. The Auburn Union Elementary School District is laying off at least 32 personnel ” both teachers and non-certificated staff ” to cope with California's budget woes. They've also offered retirement incentives to teachers in order to save funds for the school district. These are tough times that affect almost everyone. They require tough choices. Our local government and school officials appear to be doing their best to get through these tough times while still serving our communities. The difficult decisions being made today will greatly affect our future. Every cost-cutting measure must be scrutinized, just as every dime spent must be justified. Local government officials must now, more than ever, treat taxpayers' money like it's a rare and valuable commodity.