"We're down to the rock bottom of our budget." - Utah County Commission Chairman Brent Morris.

A budget shortfall for 1990 estimated at between $2.3 million and $3 million could put as many as 35 Utah County employees out of work by the end of the year.

County commissioners met behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss possible personnel cuts and department consolidations. Projected budget shortfalls and the lack of any budget surplus to help make ends meet in 1990, prompted the discussion."We don't want to do it a month before Christmas," Commission Chairman Brent Morris said of possible employee layoffs. He said officials are examining each county department to determine where cuts can be made.

Commissioners hope that by cutting personnel they'll be able to ward off a tax hike next year. They haven't, however, ruled out the possibility of raising taxes.

"For us to cover the $2.3 million to $3 million deficit in the budget, there is a possibility of cutting from 15 to 35 employees, or more," Morris said.

He said the county won't even have an extra $5,000 next year to bring an art exhibit from the Springville Art Museum for display in the Utah County Regional Government Center.

"We're down to the rock bottom of our budget," he said. "That $5,000 is very important to us."

The county clerk's office was the first department consolidated. Last week, former Clerk Bill Huish went on paid leave, and the position of chief deputy county clerk was eliminated.

County Auditor Bruce Peacock has been named clerk-auditor, and two of the four remaining clerk's office personnel will be moved to the auditor's office within the next month.

"We'd like to get them over here as soon as we can," Peacock said.

As a result of the changes, services for marriage licenses and passports will be transferred to the auditor's office. Two elections personnel will remain in the clerk's office under an elections supervisor - a position commissioners hope to fill in house without spending any additional money.

Morris said possible supervisor candidates are Substance Abuse Director Bruce Berdick and Chief Deputy Auditor Jim Sutherland. If neither has time to take on the extra duties, commissioners will consider creating an entry-level supervisor position.

One service already in jeopardy because of funding shortages is tightened security at the County Courthouse. Sheriff Dave Bateman last week told commissioners the security will be discontinued unless the county comes up with $42,000 to fund salaries for the remainder of the year.

Morris said the county hopes the state will cover security costs in a new agreement to be reached by July 1. The state plans to lease space for the 4th District Court for another year until a new building is completed that will house the district court with Provo's 4th Circuit Court.