QUEENSBURY - While government workers were picketing and shouting protests over job cuts Wednesday outside the Warren County Municipal Center, county supervisors inside moved ahead with their plans to abolish 21 positions effective July 1.
Dozens of other jobs in county government will likely be eliminated if unions don't offer wage and benefit concessions, and county department heads don't come up with more cost-cutting ideas, officials said. The actions were part of an effort to reduce a $6.3 million shortfall predicted in the county's 2010 budget.
"These layoffs were a last resort," county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said. "We're hoping that negotiations with unions will fill a $2 million budget gap."
County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty of Warrensburg said county Administrator Hal Payne had prepared a list of a second round of job cuts that may be implemented if union negotiations don't produce substantial savings. Supervisors estimated this list to include about 35 employees' names. Layoffs might total 100 if required to keep the 2010 budget from increasing, they said.
Most of the county's 20 supervisors met behind closed doors Wednesday with County Attorney Paul Dusek to discuss negotiating strategies with unions in upcoming negotiations.
Lake Luzerne Supervisor shared his opinions in open session.
"Maybe it's time for a 10 percent cut in pay, and if the employees don't like it, there's the door."
He said wage and benefit concessions from employees were better than firings and shutting down programs.
"If we reduce each department and program piece by piece, we tear apart our whole structure."
Merlino was reacting to the news that Warren County Cooperative Extension, facing a $116,500 cut, would have to fire four employees of their 10, and cut the programs they offer primarily to those of modest and middle income. Up until Wednesday, they were slated to be cut $235,000, which officials said would virtually close down their operation.
Supervisors reviewed a budget summary prepared by Dusek, that indicated that the 2010 shortfall was now only projected at $2.1 million rather than $6.3 million. if pending cuts were enacted. The summary included an anticipated $2 million revenue in one-time federal stimulus funds to offset Medicaid expenses, $750,000 expected to be saved by the abolishment of the 21 jobs, plus three more that are pending. Other savings include $177,000 from Workers Compensation rate reduction, and $300,000 from the rent avoided by county agencies occupying the new Social Services building. Another source of savings, suggested by Information Technology Director Robert Metthe, received praise from supervisors. He suggested centralizing printing computer documents, saving $150,000 annually in printer toner and maintenance.
The supervisors cut the shortfall Wednesday by two new moves. They voted to reduce county employees' mileage compensation from 55 cents to 40 cents, which is expected to yield $78,000 annually, and to cut their county-based pay by 10 percent, from $17,000 annually to $15,300. The supervisors also receive stipends from their town.
Among those voting against cutting their own pay were Glens Falls supervisors Mike O'Connor and Bill Kenny.
These decisions by the county Budget Committee are subject to a final vote Friday June 19 by the full Board of Supervisors.