The number of workers to be laid off at the Camden County Prosecutor's Office is expected to come down to three, dramatically fewer than the 66 notified in February that they could lose their jobs, authorities have confirmed.

As negotiations continue between the county and unions, optimism has emerged that authorities will preserve nearly all of what Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk has said is an already lean staff that handles a high volume of criminal cases.

The prosecutor said Tuesday that he had identified three people who do not serve core functions in the office - a community liaison, a crime-scene agent, and the police academy coordinator - who could be let go.

"At this point, I have to make some decisions," Faulk said. "I have been quite frank . . . that I am not going to lay off assistant prosecutors and investigators" to save nonessential personnel.

The community liaison, Angel M. Osorio, sent an e-mail Tuesday advising Camden residents and officials that her last day would be next Tuesday. She declined to comment to The Inquirer, but in her e-mail she said that the assertion she does not provide a core function "continues to boggle my mind."

Osorio, who oversees several public safety programs and community boards, vowed to continue advocating for the city and urged her supporters to "keep the pressure on, otherwise we run the risk of losing the support we have worked so hard to gain."

After he first was told by the county Board of Freeholders that he had to cut $3.2 million from his office's 2011 budget request, Faulk sent layoff notices to 66 employees, a third of his staff. He delayed the layoffs, now set for next week, because he said he had not received a final budget from the county.

"There are still negotiations ongoing," said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office. "If those are successful, the vast majority of those jobs will be saved."

Faulk initially proposed a $21.7 million budget - $1.2 million less than his office's current budget - that did not include layoffs, but called for seven voluntary furlough days.

The county insisted on more savings. The gap between the prosecutor's subsequent proposal and the county's request is $1.8 million. Two unions have agreed to the furlough days and three other unions are scheduled to vote Wednesday, Faulk said.

"Everything's still in play," said Clem Fuscellaro, president of Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 316, which represents investigators in the Prosecutor's Office, who have yet to vote.

Fuscellaro said he met with Faulk on Monday. "He's telling us where we stand, and we have to decide what's going to happen," Fuscellaro said.

A final budget would not be approved until next month, and last-minute changes are possible, authorities warned.

Faulk and the freeholders have debated the cuts for months as the county faces what has been described as a $43 million budget deficit.

"I've been in elected office 25 years, and this has been the most difficult budget year I've ever experienced," Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said. "We've been balancing the public safety needs with the realities of today's budget woes."

Faulk argued that public safety would be jeopardized if his staff were to shrink after recent layoffs in Camden, ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the nation, reduced the police force there from 370 officers to 250.

County officials said it was to be determined what impact the deal with the Prosecutor's Office would have on other areas of the county budget, which is expected to be introduced next month.

"This is a process that's very fluid," Cappelli said.