County promises $1.7 million in cuts
By David Avitabile
Facing a financial future of declining sales tax revenue and increasing costs, Schoharie County Supervisors Friday approved more than $1.7 million in cuts and agreed to continue its hiring moratorium.
The 214 cuts in 22 departments will also keep 22 full-time and 11 part-time positions vacant. The positions are part of the 2009 budget.
The cuts approved Friday, a rare move to cut spending in the middle of a budget year, cover everything from bottled water, overtime and travel expenses to furniture, road work and pest control, in addition to the vacant positions.
The $1,713,164 in cuts will only reduce revenue by $200,000 leaving a net savings of $1.5 million, almost exactly the total that sales tax revenue may be short this year.
Keeping the 33 positions vacant through the rest of the year will result in a savings of $442,000 in salaries, board Chairman Earl VanWormer said. Maintaining those vacancies through 2010 would result in a savings of $1.1 million which would include $807,426 plus fringe benefits.
The county board has agreed to set a hiring ceiling of 402 full-time employees and 82 part-timers.
There are no layoffs and the openings are only because of attrition, Mr. VanWormer said.
The cuts, he said, are needed to avoid a sizable property increase in the 2010 budget.
“We don’t want to have a large increase in property taxes,” he said. “Everyone out there is hurting.”
The state budget is “in disarray” and there may be more cuts in state aid, Mr. VanWormer said. “That’s scary.”
The county could not wait to make adjustments, Mr. VanWormer said.
“We’d better get on top of it. We’re going to do what it takes to avoid a sizable tax increase.”
His goal, he said, would be no tax increase for 2010 but the reality is there may be a minimal one needed.
Mr. VanWormer said no “carte blanche” hiring freeze has been approved.
The open positions will be evaluated and there must be board approval before they are filled.
Department heads must come to committee meetings with reasons why a position should be filled, he said.
Some reasons are: if the position is mandated or if there would be adverse effects if the position were left open, Mr. VanWormer said.
Supervisors may have to choose which jobs are more important to fill, he added.
“There’s going to be tests, evaluations,” he said.
He expects the new hiring moratorium to last through next year.
For positions that had been approved through the committee process before the moratorium was approved, the affected department head will be required to initiate the hiring process again, going through the proper committees.
The county board will follow the established policies and procedures for hiring and backfilling positions while maintaining the established hiring ceiling.
Both Mr. VanWormer and Summit Supervisor Harold Vroman, the head of the finance committee, both lauded the work of co-budget officers Alicia Terry and Paul Brady in recommending the cuts.