TRPA eyes layoffs to close budget gap | SierraSun.com

TRPA eyes layoffs to close budget gap

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

TAHOE CITY ” The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced Monday that it will close its North Shore office, issue mandatory unpaid furlough days, and might cut staff in the early part of 2009 to help close a more than $500,000 budget deficit.

The office at 3080 North Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City opened in January 2007 and will close on Jan. 15, 2009, until budget conditions improve, according to a statement from the planning agency.

Several factors ” including a significant drop in project applications ” could cause the agency to end up $500,000 to $800,000 short of its $11.7 million 2008/2009 fiscal year budget, said TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver.

Although the TRPA still holds a lease on the building for another year, closing the office will save the agency approximately $40,000 in salary and benefits to staff the office, Oliver said.

Additionally, TRPA employees will be required to take six unpaid days off in the next six months, according to the statement. The agency will also close on those days ” Jan. 16, Feb. 13, March 20, April 10, May 22 and June 19.

Planning agency officials have offered staff members voluntary separation and sabbatical packages to reduce personnel costs and avoid layoffs, according to the statement.

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But layoffs might be necessary if participation in the voluntary program is insufficient to balance the current-year budget. Six to eight people could be laid off from the 85-member agency, Oliver said.

“Because of declining revenue and worsening economic conditions, we have no choice but to streamline operations,” Oliver said in the statement. “Our hope is that we will be able to weather these challenging times with minimal effect on customer service and our core mission of protecting Lake Tahoe.”

The budget problems come at a particularly busy time for the TRPA, which is trying to complete a much-delayed regional plan update and is facing two separate legal challenges over ordinances passed in Oct-ober regulating the development of the Lake Tahoe shoreline.