The county Board of Supervisors is looking to implement an immediate hiring freeze for county government positions through at least the end of the year.
Board Chairman David Howard recommended that the county’s personnel and finance committees evaluate the necessity for the freeze, given the recent tax cap legislation imposed by the state on local governments. Both committees unanimously endorsed the idea this week.
The freeze could be effective as soon as Aug. 9, if the board approves it at its Aug. 8 meeting, Personnel Committee Chairman Gregory Fagan said.
“This would be just one of many things to get us in the mindset for the tough decisions we have coming in the very near term,” Fagan said. “We’re probably looking at more layoffs, as well. In effect, this is to save whatever money we can between now and the end of the year.”
The final resolution that will go to the full board includes a stipulation to allow departments with fewer than three employees to appeal the hiring freeze.
In addition, as the county’s Residential Health Care Facility becomes privatized, its direct care staff would be exempt, as well as staff at Home Health Agency, Addiction Services and Mental Health Clinic. Supervisors approved in May a $3.5 million sale of the Gloversville-based RHCF facility to Centers for Specialty Care of Tarrytown.
Since the New York state Legislature imposed the property tax cap on local governments and school districts in June, county government officials have struggled to identify unnecessary expenditures with increasing urgency.
The cap limits annual property tax levy growth to 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Fulton County expects the limit to be 1.6 to 1.7 percent next year, or approximately $400,000.
Intended to force towns, counties, cities and districts to live within their means, the cap has government officials eyeing cost-cutting options great and small.
For Fulton County, this has meant saying no to even small funding requests by departments. At the first meeting of the county’s 2012-2014 capital plan process July 13, committee members rejected requests that weren’t absolutely necessary at the time.
The cap has led counties to become increasingly willing to gamble when it comes to cutting costs, Finance Committee member John Callery said Thursday.
Fagan said the state has forced counties into eliminating services by not offering any mandate relief with the property tax cap.
“As counties, we believe we should be providing for your sheriff’s department, your roads, building, maintenance departments — what we see as core government services,” he said. “And we aren’t going to be able to afford to fund them. These are very difficult times to be in county government.”
Fagan said he and other board members are unsure how much money the hiring freeze is expected to save the county. But through attrition and probable layoffs, any money saved will help, he said.
“We don’t know how many people might retire or take other jobs,” he said. “It looks like we have people leaving not only county posts, but also New York state, which I think is probably becoming a big trend with this cap.”
The board could vote to extend the freeze after the Dec. 31 end date, Fagan said. Once it reviews the effectiveness of the freeze, it will know whether an extension is necessary.
Categories: Schenectady County