SCHENECTADY — A change may be coming to a nearly 35-year-old residency requirement for city employees as officials continue to grapple with how to fill vacant positions amid a tight labor market.
The City Council on Monday will hold a public hearing to amend a 1988 law requiring employees to live within the city to instead allow workers to reside within Schenectady County. The hearing is required before the law can be amended, which could happen as early as this month.
The change, proposed by Council President Marion Porterfield, has been a topic of discussion in recent weeks as the city struggles to fill vacant positions, straining some city departments that have been short staffed for months.
It’s unclear if the amended law will be approved. Several council members, including Doreen Ditoro and John Polimeni, have voiced concerns about changing the requirement in the past.
But Porterfield has said the change is necessary as employers across the county struggle to fill positions, and that allowing workers to reside within the county will allow the city to cast a wider net when trying to attract qualified candidates. Potential employees have turned down positions in the past because they have not wanted to relocate.
“Everyone is experiencing the same problem that we’re having, and mother municipalities … are also expanding the footprint of where their employees can live,” Porterfield said last month.
Under the current law, all employees are required to become city residents within six months of being hired and must maintain their residency as long as they’re employed. Those that relocate “shall be deemed a voluntary resignation,” according to the law.
The law allows for limited exceptions for those facing hardships or for positions that require a specialized degree, but those exceptions can only be approved following a hearing of a board of residency, made up of five city residents appointed by the mayor, corporation counsel and the City Council.
City firefighters are already required to live within Schenectady County, a requirement that will not be changed should the amended law be approved. There is no residency requirement of city police officers, which is dictated by a separate state law.
The city currently has a number of key positions opened in its codes and planning departments, including a code enforcement officer, nuisance inspector and senior engineer. The police and fire departments are also seeking to fill positions.
Employers across the county have been struggling to fill millions of positions in recent months due to a tight labor market. In July, the U.S. economy added 528,00 jobs, surpassing expectations, bringing the unemployment rate to 3.5% — below levels seen prior to the pandemic in February 2020.
In New York, there were 538,000 job openings across the state and just 422,100 unemployed workers, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the equivalent to 0.8 job seekers per opening.
Schenectady County amended a residency requirement a few years ago in a bid to attract new workers, and the Albany County legislature has been weighing a similar change as well.
Wednesday’s public hearing is set to take place at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.