Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Dan Hust | Democrat

County Manager David Fanslau unveiled his 2011 proposed county budget to legislators on Wednesday.

‘0’ is the number

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — November 12, 2010 — No tax hikes, no layoffs.
That’s Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau’s goal for next year, but he won’t be the one to decide that.
And if legislators and six employee unions aren’t agreeable to his plans, the proposed $190.7 million county budget for 2011 will have to change.
With staff being shifted and every employee being asked to freeze their wages next year, changes in the tentative budget released Wednesday are virtually a certainty, even though it’s close to $200,000 less than 2010’s budget.
Compromise is regularly a part of the annual budget preparation process, but this year, Fanslau is insisting that county workers must take a hit on behalf of their fellow taxpayers and co-workers.
“Salary increases in 2011 would require a massive increase in the real property tax,” he told legislators on Wednesday, “which is not only impractical but also impossible in consideration of the federal government’s decision to not grant a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to senior citizens and disabled veterans in 2011, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and current unemployment statistics.”
Should union leaders and members be unwilling to have salaries and longevity bonuses temporarily halted in 2011, Fanslau warned that $3.3 million in savings will have to be found elsewhere.
He indicated tax hikes and program cuts would be less likely than large staff reductions.
But how did his office close what legislators have said is a $12 million deficit?
• By proposing not to fill 51 currently vacant positions.
• Dipping into the county’s fund balance (surplus), on the order of $6.9 million, to offset a similar reduction in sales tax and related revenue realized in 2010.
• Combining the departments of Personnel and Risk Management & Insurance into the Department of Human Resources.
• Creating a Flood & Erosion Control Unit in the Division of Public Works to handle stream maintenance and cleaning functions in coordination with the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Going to a single-man plowing model and trying out potentially cheaper snow and ice removal alternatives.
• Finding more technological efficiencies, including “virtual desktops” and self-troubleshooting programs.
• Consolidating a variety of payroll and financial offices.
• Shuffling staff into state/federal-funded positions.
• Asking leaders to take on more duties, including Sheriff Michael Schiff overseeing the E911 Department to allow 911 dispatchers to work with his patrol unit, freeing up four deputies who would otherwise be engaged in dispatch duties themselves.
Notably, the proposed budget does not include any layoffs in the Sheriff’s patrol division, contrary to rumors that led to several heated debates earlier this year.
Still, Schiff submitted $750,000 in potential cuts, which Fanslau incorporated into his proposal.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis hopes the county’s workforce understands what Fanslau called the need to sacrifice.
“I just don’t think our taxpayers can pay it [higher salaries],” Rouis explained in an interview this week.
Likewise, he said layoffs are not a suitable alternative.
“This is just the wrong time to be putting significant amounts of people on the streets,” Rouis remarked, adding that the county is “pretty much at the staffing level needed to provide the services we provide.”
He bemoaned the huge pension and health insurance increases, noting that nowadays the average county employee earns just over $42,000 a year, yet the county pays nearly the same amount to provide benefits – basically doubling the salary.
But will the unions, which represent the majority of Sullivan County’s approximately 1,100 workers, see it the same way?
Teamsters Local 445 Business Agent Lou Setren couldn’t promise a certain outcome, pointing out that first the unions’ negotiators, and then their membership, must agree to any changes to their contracts.
But he did vow to work with county leaders.
“We’re willing to enter into discussions,” he confirmed.
Four on-the-road presentations of the budget are coming to various spots around the county, with dates, times and locations to be announced as the budget picture becomes clearer.
Official public hearings on the budget will be held at the Government Center in Monticello on Tuesday, December 7 at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, December 16 at 1:50 p.m.
Following the Dec. 16 hearing, the Legislature is expected to vote on the budget.

top of page  |  home  |  archives