ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County supervisors are leaving the door open for two tentative salaried positions in the midst of strict limitations on county hiring.
A policy instituted by Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer requires county department heads to seek resolutions from the Board of Supervisors before including a request for new paid positions in their 2010 budget proposals.
The policy is designed to limit spending on personnel, one of the largest portions of the county's budget
Transportation coordinator Nancy Dougal brought a request to the Essex County Human Services committee Aug. 10 for the creation of a new account clerk position in the county's transportation department.
The position is necessary, she said, because the transportation department plans to start billing New York State directly for rides provided to Medicare patients for medical purposes. Currently the billing is done through the Department of Social Services where Dougal said the paperwork ends up changing hands several times.
Committee members were generally unenthusiastic about the proposal, questioning why it was necessary to add a position for a task that was already being done.
"This could very well be a case where hiring an accounting clerk is going to save money," said Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, "but it's a little cloudy at this point."
The resolution to consider the added position passed, but many committee members expressed hesitation with the idea of ultimately including it in the 2010 budget.
In the Economic Development Committee, a similar discussion arose regarding a proposal to retain Barbara Brassard as Empire Zone coordinator amidst an anticipated loss of state funding for administration of the program in 2010.
Currently, Essex County budgets $40,000 with another $23,000 coming from the state. Committee members mulled a resolution that would add $10,000 in county funds to the program to offset that $23,000 disappearing.
Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava explained that despite loss of state funding, a coordinator is still required to help participating businesses renew their eligibility for Empire Zone benefits, which may include tax breaks or utility discounts.
There are reportedly as many as 82 businesses utilizing the program in Essex County, and some may be eligible for benefits for the next 14 years.
Scozzafava chairs the Empire Zone Board of Directors, and said that their plan was to expand Brassard's job duties to make up for the marketing and promotion of the program that she would no longer need to do.
"We felt the position was important enough to all the 18 communities to be included in the 2010 budget," Scozzafava said.
Other supervisors, such as Preston and Robert Dedrick of Ticonderoga, opposed the move, suggesting that Jody Olcott and Carol Calabrese, the co-executives of the Essex County Industrial Development Agency, could take on the workload of keeping the program intact for participating businesses.
"I don't see how we can continue to absorb this cost as a county," said Preston. "I know it's a sensitive issue because somebody could be losing their job, but somewhere somebody's got to draw the line."
Minerva supervisor Michael McSweeney and North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi each argued that spending more to keep Brassard should be avoided if possible, especially since the state funding for the position was ending.
Randy Douglas, supervisor of Jay, joined Scozzafava in support of the resolution, arguing keeping Brassard in the position was worth the extra expense because of her ability to assist local businesses. Other supervisors noted how many such businesses asked to keep her.
While she and Calabrese would be able to meet the requirements for maintaining Empire Zone benefits, Olcott said, they wouldn't be able to offer the same level of assistance to businesses as Brassard, and that the IDA would still require about $20,000 a year in funding from the county for Empire Zone administration if Brassard's position were terminated.
Committee members ultimately voted down the resolution 3-4, opting not to support the $10,000 increase.