The Fulton County Board of Supervisors and the county’s Civil Service Employees Association have put on hold new contract negotiations pending the completion of the state’s budget process.
Fulton County’s one-year contract extension with CSEA Local 818, which represents 480 county employees, expired at the end of 2009. The contract extension included a 2.75 percent raise for county employees as well as $200 added to their base pay at the end of the year. State law mandates all of the provisions of a public employee union contract remain in place until a new one is agreed to, but county employees won’t receive any raises, outside of longevity increases, until they have a new contract.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Fagan said even without raises, the cost of the county’s work force is going up because of rising health insurance costs and increased state pension fund contributions. He said the board needs to know how much state aid it will lose before it can negotiate a new CSEA contract. “The best thing to do now is wait and see how the dust settles with the state before we can sit down and pick up negotiations,” Fagan said.
CSEA Local 818 President Ron Briggs said the supervisors requested the suspension of contract talks until the state budget passes and his union agreed to it. In the meantime, he said, he’s still hoping to negotiate some contract issues that don’t pertain to money, but he hasn’t approached the supervisors with the union’s concerns yet.
“We’re trying to work on some non-financial issues with them,” he said. “They’ve told us they will at least look at them and consider talking, but we haven’t gotten that far yet.”
Briggs said two of his union’s biggest concerns include possible layoffs in 2011 and whether the county will privatize its Residential Health Care Facility. He said the nursing home employs 200 of his union members.
Fulton County’s 2010 budget avoided layoffs largely by spending $4.35 million of the county’s reserves while raising the county’s average property tax rate about 1.95 percent to $9.95 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Fagan said Fulton County spends about $1 million per month on its employees’ health insurance benefits. He said layoffs are possible for the 2011 budget because the county needs to find some way of controlling cost increases while revenues are going down.
Briggs said his members are eager for a new contract. He said longevity pay increases are minimal. The maximum is $200 per year after an employee’s 16th year on the job. He said he hopes county supervisors won’t force workers to work under their old contract for a protracted time period to save money.
“I believe right now that our working relationship with the county is good enough that that’s not going to happen,” he said.