A contract between North Country Community College and its clerical staff may have new life as Essex County supervisors agreed to reconsider the measure after killing it in September.
But since the contract is unchanged it still could have a tough time passing the boards of both Franklin and Essex counties.
The proposed contract with the Civil Service Employees Association - featuring a retroactive $1,000 raise in 2010 and 3 percent raises in 2011 and 2012 - passed the Essex County board's Finance Committee Monday 5-1 with only its chairman Tom Scozzafava dissenting.
But County Chairman Randy Douglas said he remains opposed to the deal that is identical to the one previously torpedoed.
"I can't support it. I did a zero percent in my own town for my own office staff. My heart goes out to them because I know they are the lowest paid at the college and I whole-heartedly support the college," he said. "To be fiscally responsible I feel that zero percent is where we should be with everybody. I'm even going to right a letter today to our own union because we are considering possible layoffs."
Supervisors have been seeking a pay freeze among county union employees. But the unions aren't willing to return to the table with a full year left on the current agreement.
Retroactive through 2010, the three-year college employee contract still must survive the Essex County Ways and Means Committee and the full board. It must also be approved by the Franklin County Legislature.
The contract calls for new hires to contribute eight percent toward their health insurance premiums for the first time. It would allow existing employees to continue contributing nothing toward their coverage.
And for both Douglas and Scozzafava, that's not enough.
"You're only going to pay eight percent for new employees and the rest are only going to pay zero," he said. "State employees; they contribute to their health insurance. They day of zero percent contributions are gone, it's over. Since I've become the supervisor of Jay, the cost of health insurance has increased 66 percent."
If approved, the contract would cost the college $24,000 next year and wouldn't result in any additional cost to the county in 2011.
County Manager Dan Palmer said the contract was the best officials could hope for and an improvement over the most recent deal that has remained in effect because of the impasse.
Essex County's move to reconsider the college contract could place the heat on Franklin County legislators.
In September, Franklin County legislators tabled the contract and waited for the Essex County decision.
Tim Burpoe represents Saranac Lake and the town of Franklin on the Franklin County Board of Legislators.
"The legislature was unhappy with it back when it was first offered. Particularly when we are battling with every nickel and dime in our budget," he said. "Some of the legislators argued that we shouldn't be giving a 3.2 percent increase."
Burpoe did note that there are several new members of the Franklin County board and the dynamic could change. But he wasn't overly optimistic.
Several recent controversial decisions involving the college have been initially acted on by Essex County, rendering Franklin County's subsequent actions essentially meaningless.