QUEENSBURY - The 24 Warren County government jobs that the county supervisors voted to eliminate by July 1 may put excessive workload on some employees that remain and may even cost taxpayers more than the salaries saved in the cuts, officials said.
County supervisors voted Friday to eliminate 24 jobs across 15 county departments, as they proposed and endorsed only two weeks ago, to help offset a $6.35 million anticipated budget shortfall in 2010.
Abolishing posts will cost the county taxpayers reimbursement of unemployment payments, while in many cases cutting state reimbursement for the positions - a revenue for the county - department heads said.
Other cuts may shift workload to other sources at a higher cost, they said.
County Fire Prevention and Building Codes Administrator Karen Putney said she'd just filled
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a position for a code inspector last week to check fire safety in commercial locations. The county charges $75 for these inspections now instead of $25 just months ago.
But the worker hired as fire inspector quit three days after he was hired when he heard of a proposed cut of one employee in the department. These inspections, which the county has a pending backlog of about 700 inspections, need to be conducted soon, Putney said.
Otherwise, the state may take them over and charge Warren County a mandated $525 apiece to complete the work, she said.
"The state could come in here, take them over at a great financial loss to the county," she said. "This is a life-safety issue - if this doesn't get done, the public is at risk."
County Commissioner of Social Services Sheila Weaver said her employees are facing a much heavier workload, tighter mandates, greater reporting requirements, but now with fewer people to accomplish the work.
Already since taking over the department, Weaver has abolished a number of positions, streamlined work and changed pay grades for various work descriptions to save the county money, for which county leaders have rewarded her with praise.
But now, she's facing a cut of three positions while temporary assistance cases have soared 40 percent this year, child protective cases have increased 65 percent, and food stamp caseload has increased 25 percent, she said.
The increase in children at risk is particularly troubling, she said, in light of the proposed personnel cuts.
"I'm not willing to compromise the safety of children in the county," she said.
Cutting programs to uncover welfare fraud or people who are using Medicaid or welfare proceeds improperly won't result in savings to the county, but rather may increase expenses, she said.
"Who will suffer if programs are cut to the bare minimum?" she said. "It's people in the community."
While approving the job cuts Friday, the supervisors tabled a motion, however, to drastically cut county support of various non-mandated programs and community-based service organizations - like Warren County Cooperative Extension and Warren County Economic Development Corp. The outside organizations affected got a 30-day reprieve until their representatives have the opportunity to defend their programs and financial needs with county leaders. The pending cuts to programs total $443,375.
County Cooperative Extension director James Seeley estimated that if his funding is cut as proposed, 10 of his agency's 14 employees would lose their jobs, and half to two-thirds of the agency's programs would be eliminated. The agency runs 4-H youth groups, parenting and consumer programs, the county fair, and offers outdoor education experiences. The county's proposed cut of $235,000 would prompt matching funds to be lost as well, he said.
"This would be devastating to our programs that serve the county citizens," he said.
WEDC President Len Fosbrook told supervisors that his agency had successfully leveraged the ORDA Ski Bowl Interconnect that will be worth $7 million or more in income to the county annually, and WEDC is now working with 55 businesses to expand and flourish under the tax relief provided by Empire Zone legislation.
The loss of $90,000 of its $240,000 in county support would cut its ability to accomplish such efforts, he said.
"We may not be able to keep our obligations with a 30 percent cut in funding," he said.