In an effort to alleviate the county’s financial crisis, county employees will go on a work furlough this December to potentially save the county $10 million in salaries.

The furlough — which will begin on Dec. 20 and span a two-week period — will close county offices for eight business days, with participating employees taking a 64-hour pay cut. Eighty percent of county employees across 22 departments are expected to participate.

Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the implementation of the work furlough program is an indication of Santa Barbara County’s serious financial situation.

“The county has got extreme budget problems,” Firestone said. “Our expenses exceed our revenue and we need to cut back our expenditures.”

According to William Boyer, the Communications Director for the county, Santa Barbara is not alone in its financial woes.

“Santa Barbara County, like all counties and cities in California and elsewhere in the nation, is grappling with declining revenues, an economy that people are having serious challenges with, foreclosures, downturn in property tax revenues and downturn in sales tax revenues,” Boyer said.

The furlough’s scheduled timeframe includes weekends and the holidays of Christmas and New Year, bringing the total number of impacted business days down to the eight days.

Firestone said the furlough provides a way to curb expenditures while preserving the jobs of county employees.

“One of the options is to lay people off,” he said. “The other option is for departments — as they’ve done — to agree to have a work furlough and not show up for work and not get paid for that particular time.”

Boyer said that employees from all levels and positions within the county will be affected by the program.

“Eighty percent of the 4,200 total employees are taking the pay cut and going on furlough, and that includes people from the County’s Executive Officer on down,” Boyer said. “All county executive managers, department heads — they’re all impacted by this.”

However, Boyer said the furlough will not impact the safety of the community and all emergency response units will be available over the two-week period.

“Public safety is first and foremost in our minds and plans, and the public’s safety will not be put at risk due to the furlough,” Boyer said.

Firefighters, the Sheriff’s Department and paramedics will still be on patrol and responding to emergencies. Public health and mental health services will also be available, although on a slightly modified schedule.

The county estimates that the work furlough will save approximately $10 million.

“A lot of credit is due to our county employees for stepping up and taking the pay cut,” Boyer said. “That $10 million will help keep the county’s budget in balance. Instead of going to the employees’ salaries, that money is going to keeping other things such as county programs and services moving forward.”