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County searching for cost-savings everywhere

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — October 26, 2010 — County Manager David Fanslau presented legislators with a report on Thursday showing the potential cuts and consolidations division commissioners have identified for the 2011 county budget.
Within the Division of Management and Budget, county leaders are considering combining the personnel and risk management offices, creating a Human Resources Department “to achieve greater efficiencies and communications,” said Fanslau.
Employees would be cross-trained to minimize problems when a worker is out.
Fanslau added that there’s a possibility the Division of Public Works’ payroll functions would be rolled into Management and Budget’s Payroll Office.
Due to upcoming retirements, he said the fiscal administrative officer and senior budget analyst in the Government Center will be assuming additional duties.
The Division of Health and Family Services’ fiscal staff may centralize their operations, currently spread across the Dept. of Family Services, the Dept. of Community Services, Public Health, and the Adult Care Center. The new office would report directly to Management and Budget.
Management Information Systems (MIS), which handles the county’s computer network, has proposed a web-based troubleshooting program to answer relatively simple questions from perplexed employees, rather than requiring personal visits by MIS staff.
A committee, said Fanslau, is working on streamlining the county’s purchasing and audit processes, with recommendations and a report due in early November.
In the Division of Public Works, Fanslau said leaders are discussing having one operator per plow truck rather than the current two, with GPS-based locators installed on each truck to ensure safety and accountability.
The roads themselves will be pre-treated with a brine mixture the day before any storm this winter, he added. The experiment, anticipated to melt up to four inches of snow without plowing, could lead to reduced overtime costs.
Also, the DPW will be applying salt instead of the traditional salt-sand mixture on the roads, identified as more cost-effective.
County Route 108 in Forestburgh, where the huge Lost Lake housing resort is being designed and constructed, has suffered from heavy-duty truck traffic and must be repaired, said Fanslau. DPW officials have come up with a calcium chloride-asphalt mix that could bring the typically $300,000-$500,000 repaving project down to $100,000.
The DPW’s Vehicle and Equipment Shop in Barryville – its historic home – may be moved to the new Maplewood facility west of Monticello in order to conserve energy costs. One supervisory position would be lost, but the paint and auto body services would remain in Barryville.
Fanslau added that the Town of Highland may be interested in leasing the subsequently unused portion of the Barryville facility.
With Director of Solid Waste John Kehlenbeck now retired, Fanslau said the position’s duties will be divided between the DPW’s engineering and operations staff, rather than being refilled.
In the Division of Public Safety, county officials are considering not filling a probation officer position that has been made vacant by the retirement of Probation Director Tom Fogarty. Caseloads, however, are being studied to determine the need first.
The Division of Planning and Environmental Management could get two departments from Health and Family Services: the Youth Bureau and the Center for Workforce Development.
Health and Family Services may lose more than that, however. Its Department of Family Services, said Fanslau, is anticipating 20 upcoming retirements, and 10 of those positions may not be refilled.
“Regular caseload evaluations must be performed to determine whether additional positions may be attritioned,” he explained.
The Dept. of Community Services is also anticipating six retirements by April of next year, with two positions possibly being eliminated. Five additional positions may be downgraded, though details were not provided.
Countywide, Fanslau said paper usage will be lessened in favor of electronic forms and communications, from timesheets to brochures.
Energy efficiencies have been a priority for the past year, as has been recycling, and some fees may be increased for services.
Even a four-day work week is on the table for discussion, along with a review of the benefits derived from the agencies with which the county contracts, like the Partnership for Economic Development, and organizations with whom the county is a dues-paying member, like the Hudson Valley Regional Council.
“If it’s something we can’t do without, we don’t need to waste our time” reviewing it, said Legislator Jodi Goodman, but if there are savings to be had, she and other legislators indicated now’s the time to find them.
The hope is these savings will last for years, as Fanslau warned that “there’s a huge post-retirement cost that’s going to suffocate this county” – state-mandated pension contributions that may top $8 million by 2014.
In the near future, the county is looking at contributing 16 percent of payroll to that retirement fund.
“We’re getting driven out of the ability to provide services,” Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis worried.

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