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Schuyler asks union for a pay freeze-with no answer yet

WATKINS GLEN–Schuyler County has asked its unionized employees to agree to a pay freeze and higher health care costs in 2010, but has received no answer.
County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said Tuesday, Oct. 6 the county still needs to trim $1 mllion in spending to keep a tax increase in the 3 1/2 to 4 percent range.
If pay were to be frozen across the board, O’Hearn the county could save $600,000. He said another $350,000 to $400,000 could be cut from the highway budget by delaying scheduled projects and eliminating some seasonal personnel.
O’Hearn said the county could also realize about $150,000 in new revenue by re-imposing the tax on clothing and footwear purchases that it does not now collect.
Dennis Fagan, who chairs the legislature’s Management and Budget Committee, said he doesn’t favor personnel cuts as a solution to the problem.
“Discussions with the union coming up are going to be very stark,” Fagan said.
Legislator Doris Karius suggested requiring each county department head to cut 3 percent to 4 percent from his or her budget. O’Hearn said he has already been through that process.
A freeze on pay of managers and non-union employees could save $80,000, but Fagan said he would be opposed to that if union members reject a pay freeze.
The major factors driving up costs for 2010 are health insurance premiums, salaries and other benefits.
The Management and Budget Committee is expected to adopt a tentative budget within about two weeks. The county legislature is expected to approve a budget following a public hearing at its Nov. 9 meeting.
The legislature on Oct. 13 will consider reappointing the Schuyler County Chamber of Commerce as the county’s official tourism promotion agency.
Max Neal, interim chamber president, proposed a three-year appointment to help the chamber reduce costs by making long-term agreements with vendors.
Most of the legislators at Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislative Resolution Review Commitee favored a one-year appointment.
The chamber receives 95 percent of the room tax collected in the county. In 2010, the chamber’s share is expected to be about $285,000, O’Hearn said.
Legislator Paul Marcellus is one of those who favors a one-year designation.
“I would like to see some stability at the top of the chamber,” Marcellus said.
“That hasn’t been their forte over the years.”
Fagan said he thinks the chamber is doing a “great job” in promoting tourism.

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