Board also approves additional health insurance payment offset for county employees

ELIZABETHTOWN Despite attempts by several agencies and organizations for an increase in funding, county officials stood their ground and adopted a budget that decreases the tax levy. At the regular board of supervisors meeting on Dec. 3, county officials passed the 2008 budget. They also okayed an agreement with the local county union to help offset the cost of health insurance. The approved budget is $94.3 million, down from last years $94.4. The amount to be raised by taxes is $13,245,725, down from last years $13,379,520, a decrease of about one percent. Transportation department created
The board unanimously approved a request to create a transportation department. The current transportation coordinator has been operating in the planning department. I believe by creating the transportation department, we will be eliminating duplication of services, said Supervisor Randall Douglas (Jay - D). In the long run, this is going to save dollars. Planning Department Director Vic Putnam called the move a culmination of the countys activities seeking to create a plan for transportation services. He said improving the infrastructure was needed, and would improve the economic vitality of the county. The creation of the department would require hiring another part-time employee to help with coordination. Estimates are that the department would cost an additional $8,600 for the first year. It's a step in the right direction, and by 2010, you'll see a significant cost savings because of this new department, said Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (Moriah - R). Douglas said the department would considering other options, like going green to save money and buying cars locally. Health department requests declined
Supervisor Anthony Glebus (Lewis - R) wanted to raise the Essex County Industrial Development Agencys (IDA) budget from $50,000 to $100,000, but had to settle for a compromise of $75,000. The additional funding is to be used to help with the maintenance of Commerce Park. Supervisor Gerald Morrow (Chesterfield - D) proposed the $25,000 increase compromise. (It) wont increase the tax levy, but its important we get these parks developed so they bring jobs to the community, said Morrow. Supervisor Daniel Connell (Westport - D) said he was unable to support the request, especially since Westport has a private commerce park the IDA had declined to take over. Supervisors Noel Merrihew III (Elizabethtown - R), Cathy Moses (Schroon - R) and Connell opposed the additional funding. Several requests from Department of Health Director Kathy Abernethy were turned down. Abernethy requested a pre-school coordinator and four additional cars, but received little support from the board. County agrees to increase health contributions
County officials also agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) the union the represents county employees to increase contributions to family health plans. Under the agreement, the county will contribute $1,272.03 to family plans, rather than $1,161.85. The agreement was approved by the union with a vote of 248-18 on Nov. 30. Palmer explained that in return for the increase, county employees have agreed to a seven-day lag in pay. In the past, problems have been created by paying employees prior to their schedule time of payment. The lag will go into affect in August. Douglas, chair of the personnel and labor management committee, said the proposal was needed due to rates increasing beyond expectations, and affecting the lower-paid county employees. Costs will be offset through savings of the countys self-insured prescription program. The county employees current contract runs out next year. When the new contract is up, we're going to be in heavy negotiations, and health insurance is going to have a huge impact on those negotiations, said Douglas. Supervisors George Canon (Newcomb - R) and Joyce Morency (St. Armand - R) were absent. In other county business: The board of supervisors approved a $10.46 reimbursement to a county employee at Horace Nye for lunch in June. Scozzafava and Supervisor Bob Dedrick (Ticonderoga - R) were opposed to making the payment because of a county policy that reimbursement had to be submitted within 30 days. Other supervisors said an exception needed to be made because the employee was out on sick leave. A resolution by Morrow to reimburse the town of Chesterfield for additional mileage incurred during snow clearing on Soper Road was tabled. Due to the closure of a county road, Chesterfield highway crews have to detour nearly ten miles. Supervisors spoke cautiously in favor of the move, but wanted to create guidelines about when road closures could add to county reimbursements for towns.

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