Warren County leaders warned this week that if their employees' unions don't agree to concessions, as many as 20 layoffs may be necessary due to ongoing financial constraints.
Although Supervisors voted Friday Nov. 16 to approve Warren County’s 2013 budget which calls for eliminating 11 jobs, as many as 20 more positions may be in jeopardy if the county can’t get concessions in negotiations with its main employee union, county leaders said this week.
County Administrator Paul Dusek told county supervisors Nov. 16 that he’d prepared a “layoff report” that listed positions that could be cut without a favorable contract settlement with the Warren County chapter of the Civil Service Employees Association, which rejected the county’s contract proposal in October.
Dusek declined to identify the positions at risk, but he did say the county Public Health Department would be spared cuts because it already had several vacant posts open due to a county-wide hiring freeze.
“We’re hoping we don’t need to employ this list,” Dusek said. “If we have to enact layoffs, services will have to be cut.”
Since October, negotiations have resumed with the CSEA, Dusek said, adding that he was encouraged with the progress. The county is seeking increased health insurance contributions from employees as well as downsized raises, county officials said.
Despite the jobs at risk, not one government employee or county citizen-at-large showed up at the public hearing on the budget, held just prior to Friday’s vote.
For years in Warren County, public hearings on budgets have prompted comments from the public, if not heated protests and demonstrations.
But Friday, the scene was far different.
County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty was showered with praise from supervisors, both Republicans and Democrats — even from Republican Supervisor-at-Large Mark Westcott of Queensbury, who sought further cuts.
Westcott said that with the county’s 2012 sales tax receipts flowing in $2.5 million over predictions, at least $400,000 of that sum could have been employed to keep the 2013 taxes at zero increase.
Westcott also called for the county airport’s budget to be slashed from $885,000, citing that the Saratoga County Airport —about the same size as Warren County’s — operates at about one-third the cost, or about $221,000 despite hosting more airplanes and more flights. He noted that for 2013, the Warren County Airport has been allocated $53,000 more in taxpayer money than it had been in 2012.
The $149.9 million spending plan, featuring a 1.99 percent increase in the county’s property tax levy, calls for reducing various expenditures in the face of ever-rising pension and health-care costs. In addition to trimming the county workforce, the budget draws money from its savings, and downsizes plans to repair its roadways.
The workforce reductions include laying off five people while reducing several other jobs from full-time to part-time. The layoffs are to occur in the county’s Public Works, Social Services, and Youth Bureau departments. The budget calls for a $39.98 million tax levy — an increase of $779,797 over 2012, and it estimates that the county will reap $3.7 million in sales tax revenue in 2013.
Expenses driving budget increase include $1 million in employee health insurance expenses, $1.1 million in state retirement plan premiums for county employees, and $141,363 in overtime costs.
The tax increase represents an additional $17 per $100,000 in property assessment.