Layoffs loom as county prepares budget
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau is warning county officials and residents that the full effects of the national recession may only now be coming to roost in the area.
“The economists warned that New York State and our general region would likely suffer a deeper recession that will last longer than other sections of the country due to the status of New York City’s financial services industry,” Fanslau said last week.
“Moreover,” he added, “the director of the NYS Office of Management and Budget opined ... recently that NYS may likely realize more than a $3 billion deficit in 2009-10, a $4 billion deficit in 2010-11, and a $14 billion deficit in 2011-12.”
In fact, Fanslau said, projections indicate that will balloon to $22 billion by 2014.
What does that mean for Sullivan County?
Reduced state aid, for one. And increased county costs, for another.
“Governor David A. Paterson’s administration is speeding upon a reckless course of action that will punish counties,” Fanslau criticized, noting that the state may even slash federal aid it distributes to counties, all the while forcing those counties to continue offering if not increase mandated programs.
The state is also planning to make municipalities contribute 12 percent, rather than the current 8 percent, of payroll to the state retirement system, costing Sullivan County about $1.1 million next year.
Rising healthcare costs, too, are pinching government, yet tax revenue is falling, leading officials to worry that the county may face a $5 million deficit of its own next year.
Fanslau has projected that Sullivan County’s sales tax revenues will come in about 4.25 percent beneath last year’s receipts, or about $1.5 million less.
The mortgage tax revenue is even worse, projected to be about half of what was realized last year.
“The fiscal outlook in 2010 is increasingly bleak,” Fanslau said.
“Therefore, I find it imperative and necessary to freeze any and all hiring across the board for all positions, effective immediately,” he told the county last week, the only exceptions being mandated posts or jobs otherwise considered essential.
All job postings have been yanked, and any new employee not yet having begun work won’t be employed, he said, unless that position is absolutely needed.
The hiring freeze will last indefinitely, and that may just be the beginning.
“It is probable that a reduction in the county’s workforce will be necessary,” said Fanslau. “Accordingly, I want to maximize the opportunity to avoid workforce reductions through vacant positions as a preferred option as much as possible.”
Layoffs are still a few weeks away, at least. The county budget for 2010 is now being created, with a goal to be filed by November 13, after which there will be a public hearing. Legislators have indicated residents will have several ways to have a say in the process, and the Democrat will cover the tentative budget as it progresses.