Returning Blaine County to a five-day workweek would have a six-figure budget impact, according to County Administrator Derek Voss.
The county commissioners were presented with the potential $415,000 net tab last Thursday, the bottom line of a months-long study on the cost of expanding work hours to five 10-hour days for offices dealing with customers. The full total, including costs already included in budget proposals to deal with the current workload, comes to $550,000 per year, Voss said.
On Thursday, July 19, department heads mostly pushed back against the idea, saying 40 hours was plenty of time to get a week’s work done.
“I understand both sides of it, but to be open for five 10-hour days—that’s a huge budgetary impact,” said Sheriff Steve Harkins, who would have four employees affected by the change. “All of my employees want to stick to a four-day workweek, and that probably goes for a lot of other county employees, too.”
Some offices, such as the treasurer and Land Use Department, said workload doesn’t warrant adding hours. The prosecuting attorney’s schedule is by and large dictated by the court—when a judge says show, they go, any day of the week. And in the Recorder’s Office, which is already open on Friday, County Clerk JoLynn Drage said there’s no predicting when work will come, or when it will fall flat.
That leaves the Department of Motor Vehicles, which falls under the purview of the Assessor’s Office.
“It’s the type of thing where we could be open seven days a week, and people would still ask for more,” said Chief Deputy Assessor Martha Heuston.
In all, 30 of the county’s 176 positions would be affected, Voss said. Increased staff work hours would run up costs an estimated $210,000, while adding five new positions to fill out the extended schedule would cost another $300,000, according to the report. (The remainder comes from added use of county facilities and equipment.)
While the issue is strictly one of workflow for most departments heads and staff, for the commissioners it’s political—and, there, consensus is hard to come by, starting with whether its an issue at all.
“In all my years in county government, I personally have only had one or two people complain that we don’t operate five days a week,” Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said. “It’s not too complicated to me. I don’t know how many people are fighting for this, or how often they themselves are really using these services.”
Commissioner Larry Schoen, though, said he’s “constantly confronted” with comments on the subject, “some very bitter and angry.”
In May, Schoen lost in his Democratic primary to Dick Fosbury, who promised to push for a five-day week throughout his campaign. Though Schoen said he believes four 10-hour days to be more productive in general, he had not made up his mind on the subject.
The commissioners will continue the discussion today, July 25, at 1:30 p.m. in the Old County Courthouse in Hailey, according to board Chair Angenie McCleary.
“Five days and improved service don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand,” McCleary said, adding that she wanted to see a complete analysis of the budget impact before making a decision. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t care how many hours we’re open. They just want us to spend less money.”