The Salt Lake County Council continued its quest for new ways to scrimp Tuesday as county department heads and elected officials took their turns presenting pared-down financial plans for 2009.

Though tempers on the council flared at a few points in the proceeding, the body is generally sticking with Mayor Peter Corroon's proposed package, which looks to cut $11 million off of last year's county operating costs and garner another $10 million or so in savings through a 5 percent reduction of the county's 4,000-strong work force. The mayor's office predicted the goal could be reached by the end of March through natural attrition on the back of a countywide hiring freeze adopted by the council last month.

The sheriff's department already has been granted a small exemption to the requested cuts, in the area of sworn deputies. But Tuesday, Winder told the council that achieving the mayor's goals, which would require cutting 38 corrections jobs, would have deleterious effects on programs under his jurisdiction.

"The concept of the hiring freeze will significantly impact our system," Winder said. "We ask that you reconsider the freeze on civilians who are in direct support of sworn officers ... and hold harmless positions on our correctional staff."

Winder told the council that full staffing in corrections recently had been achieved for the first time since 2004, and any reductions to that staff would exacerbate problems already posed by a chronically overcrowded Salt Lake County Jail.

The council voted unanimously to allow Winder to find other areas to make cuts that would provide the same fiscal reductions represented by the 5 percent employee reductions.

Thus far, the council has continued to voice support for re-opening 184 of the 560 beds in the mothballed Oxbow Jail, though a proposal did surface Tuesday from lame-duck Republican Councilman Mark Crockett to shelve the Oxbow plan until next June. The idea was rejected by the council and was one of several issues posed by Crockett that has raised the ire of Democrats in the budget work sessions, including a motion Monday night for Corroon to shave an additional $300,000 from two of his budget areas, in spite of the fact that budget reductions had already been made. Democratic Councilman Randy Horiuchi took issue with what he considered the abstract nature of the request.

"This is the only budget we've just taken a whack at and asked for taking $100,000 or $200,000 out," Horiuchi said. "I'd like to see a more intense rationale for these cuts."

No rationale was offered, and Corroon noted to the council that he had reduced staff and made nearly $300,000 in reductions in his office's administration and operations budgets since he took office in 2004. The council, again, overruled Crockett's proposal.

Other departments and agencies presenting slimmed-down budget proposals Tuesday included the district attorney's office, human services, justice courts and indigent legal services.


E-mail: araymond@desnews.com