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Yates gets good, bad news from conference

    PENN YAN—During their special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, the Yates County Finance Committee gave an update from the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) conference on the impact of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget for 2012-13 and its impact on Yates County.  Committee Chair Tim Dennis, Administrator Sarah Purdy, Sheriff Ron Spike, and Robert Schwarting attended the conference which took place from Tuesday, Jan. 31 through Wednesday, Feb. 1.  
    Purdy stated some good and bad news came out of the conference.  She said the good news is that the governor intends to place a cap on increased costs for Medicaid reform in the state.  The cap for increased costs is currently at three percent, but it is expected to drop to two percent for 2013.  By 2014, that cap will be at one percent, and by 2015, there will be no increased costs.  Purdy explained this will help increase the savings on Medicaid for Yates County.  She said savings for the county would be $35,000 in 2013, $105,000 in 2014, $210,000 in 2015, and $315,000 in 2016.
    The bad news, according to Purdy, is that Cuomo is enthusiastic about educational intervention programs that address children from birth through five years of age with developmental disabilities.  Purdy said the problem is that costs for those programs would be implemented on counties when they should be part of school districts’ budgets.          
    Purdy said that overall “it was a good conference.”  She noted that one area of frustration is that unlike the county’s budget, the fiscal year for the state budget does not run in conjunction with the calendar year.  Purdy said she does not anticipate any changes being made to the 2012 budget.  However, since the county has their finances set before the state, they need to expect things such as drops in state aid which means needing to budget for more money.
    Purdy did say the governor expects to have the budget finalized in time for the start of the state’s fiscal year April 1.  She added it does not make sense to speculate now about how it will affect the county going forward since that will be clearer over the next several weeks.  
    During the meeting, the committee also discussed how the process of filling employment vacancies in the county should be handled.  In an overview of the history of procedures handling vacancies in the county, Purdy did note a hiring freeze was established by the county legislature in 2004.  However, several new positions ended up being created shortly after that resolution was passed.  Since exceptions were necessary for certain positions, it was determined implementing a hiring freeze would be too complicated.  Since 2006, the responsibility of reviewing positions has been in the hands of standing committees.
    Dennis explained what should be determined is whether or not the current procedure is effective.  Committee member Mark Morris said it is better to address this issue and figure out how it could effect next’s year’s budget earlier on because it would be a “lose-lose situation” if they wait till the end of the year.
    He noted that by waiting until year’s end, the county would have to deal with the pain of laying people off.  Rather, it is better to decide throughout the year what positions can be done without and if it would be efficient to combine certain departments.  Don House added the committee needs to take a serious look at the costs of all programs and whether or not the county can afford to continue operating with all of them in tact.  
    District Attorney Jason Cook warned that even if certain positions get cut to save money, the services that the county needs to provide to residents will still exist.  He gave the example of how in the courthouse, cases will still come and go and there would be concern about whether work could get done efficiently with less governing bodies.  Legislature Chair H. Taylor Fitch added that due to the tight economy, there is a higher demand for services.  Fitch noted that if too many services get cut, there might not even be any financial gains.  
    An issue that was addressed within the current process is the 30-day delay period for filling positions.  Spike suggested the committee look closely at whether there are any risks of having the delay.  Spike also suggested that a department head should have an answer for when they plan to make a new appointment within that 30-day period.
    Purdy suggested the committee look into whether or not there is a civil service eligibility list that exists.  She noted that if there is no list, then a recruitment process for the position must come into play that will last more than 30 days.  The committee also agreed that any motion made by a committee to fill a position must go through the legislature.  
    Fitch said “we need to do our homework first” before determining what the process will be for approaching upcoming vacancies.  The committee decided a good start would be to bring up two points to the government operations committee.  The first one was that any positions being filled by a committee need to be voted on in a legislature meeting.
    The other point involves adding several questions to the current vacancy review form.  The added questions ask about the risks involved in the 30 day delay period, whether or not a civil service eligibility list exists, and when the head of a department plans to fill a vacant position if allowed to do so within 30 days.


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