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Four-day workweek voted down

Published (3/11/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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The Mower County Board hoped a four-day workweek would help it deal with a $1.4 million anticipated cut to local government aid without raising property taxes.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), HF3358 would have permitted the county to be open for business four days a week, not five. The county would have offered extended service hours on those four days.

However, the House Local Government Division voted down the bill March 8.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said that the board prefers adjusting its workweek to raising taxes. He estimates the county could save $50,000 in custodial services, paper products and energy costs by shutting down one of its buildings one extra day a week.

Rep. Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti) and Rep. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada) questioned whether the anticipated savings would be worth the change, although Scalze noted that private companies are taking similar measures to curb costs.

Eastlund noted that the bulk of a county’s budget, as with school districts, is for employee salaries and benefits. “It’s ludicrous to think we’re going to realize much savings without lowering labor costs,” he said.

Sara Lewerenz, legislative coordinator for Council 65 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said she is concerned about the effects of the proposal on Mower County’s lowest paid workers, whose hours could be reduced if they do not need to plow snow or clean buildings on the day off.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) said that being forced to choose between raising taxes and laying off public workers is “not a good precedent to set.”

Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) applauded Poppe for “thinking outside the box,” but added, “I wish we could blow up the box.”

Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin) sponsors a companion, SF2966. It awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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