Eau Claire County Courthouse

Most Eau Claire County operations are closed today and will be closed one day each month for the remainder of 2020.

The Eau Claire County Board approved a resolution implementing monthly furloughs during its meeting Thursday night to lower spending amid financial challenges caused by COVID-19.

Employees will not work nor receive pay during closure days. Workers in law enforcement, airport, Meals on Wheels, 24-hour operations and select court services are exempt from the furloughs. If necessary, the resolution allows county highway staff to work on furlough days if emergency activities like snow removal are required. The first furlough day is Friday. The county will also be closed Aug. 21, Sep. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 13 and Dec. 18, all of which are Fridays.

The resolution also suspends step increases for employees that were scheduled for July 1, which the county COVID-19 task force approved, effective immediately, during its June 24 meeting. Suspending pay raises means county spending on wages would decrease in 2020 by a total of about $238,000, according to county Finance Director Norb Kirk.

According to the resolution, the actions “will assist in erasing most of the projected deficit” of $1.7 million for the county in 2020 caused by COVID-19. If the county’s financial health improves by the end of the year, County Administrator Kathryn Schauf can remove furlough days and retroactively apply step increases, with the approval of a majority of COVID-19 task force members.

The furlough vote came two days later than initially scheduled. About 3½ hours into its regular meeting Tuesday, the board voted to reconvene Thursday night to finish its agenda.

The County Board referred to the Administration Committee an ordinance that would have amended county code related to the annual county budget, specifically regarding the role of the Finance and Budget Committee in preparing the budget. The Administration Committee will now work on developing a task force relating to the annual county budget.

The next County Board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18.