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County: Layoffs coming

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 28, 2011 — Locked behind closed doors for five hours yesterday, Sullivan County officials emerged with the grim news that an unspecified amount of employees will lose their jobs.
“That will be finalized by Tuesday,” County Manager David Fanslau said after the daylong executive session concluded.
Between now and then, he explained, department heads and commissioners will seek out alternatives to layoffs, but unless the unions suddenly agree to accept a wage/longevity bonus freeze now in effect, it’s likely some employees will get the required minimum-14-day layoff notice on Tuesday.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis said, however, that layoffs will not actually be enacted until the Legislature itself agrees to them, sometime in February.
“Every month we don’t move forward costs us $300,000,” he remarked of a 2011 budget that includes no specific provision for the unions’ contractually-guaranteed 4 percent raises and longevity bonuses ($100 per year of service).
Not all who get notices, though, will necessarily lose their jobs, as those with seniority can “bump” those with less seniority from their positions, and Fanslau said he’s been authorized to make a special proposal to Laborers Local 17, which represents Public Works employees.
Details on that proposal and the overall layoff plan were not released yesterday.
Teamsters Local 445 Business Agent Sandy Shaddock, who represents more than half of the county’s 1,100-strong workforce, was disappointed by the news, having argued to legislators that there are enough funds in the county’s coffers to cover the $3.3 million necessary to give out the raises and bonuses.
In particular, she pointed out more than 30 vacant positions that are funded in the budget.
“It’s unconscionable to be cutting people when you have an empty desk sitting next to them,” she said.
Fanslau indicated he agreed, telling the Democrat the “first criteria” in his workforce reduction proposal to legislators was if a position was currently unoccupied.
But despite what he termed as “surgical” cuts, Fanslau acknowledged what department heads and commissioners have been telling him: more cuts to personnel are going to hurt.
Legislator Kathy LaBuda agreed, and she’s not sure she’ll vote for all the layoffs come February.
“I am not happy with the list I see before me. I am still hoping we can come to some kind of agreement with the unions,” she said. “It’s not over yet.”

Waste fees adjusted

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — About 200 properties in Sullivan County will be getting a new tax bill or a refund soon.
“That’s a lot less than last year,” noted Sullivan County Real Property Tax Services Director Lynda Levine.
More than 1,000 bills were in error last year when assessing the then-brand-new solid waste fee.
For 2011, out of 70,000 tax bills, approximately 200 featured mistakes in the controversial fee. Spanning all 15 townships in the county, the corrections were approved unanimously by legislators last week.
“Most of them were properties entitled to the reduced rate of $108 rather than $120,” Levine said, referring to the enhanced STAR/aged exemption discount for senior citizens’ residences.
A few apartment complexes and mobile home parks were overcharged for their number of units, and the various town assessors picked up on that.
“They were all reductions in bills,” Levine confirmed.
She said the county is still determining how to handle an additional 50 or so properties which were undercharged.
Other than that, she predicted, “I don’t anticipate there will be another mass correction of errors.”
Those who are formally appealing their fees, however, are not included in these corrections. Such appeals will be separately reviewed and ruled upon by Deputy County Manager Josh Potosek, County Treasurer Ira Cohen, Deputy Treasurer Nancy Buck and Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer, with the Legislature itself having final say.

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