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Supervisors ditch their own pay hike

QUEENSBURY The top wage earners among non-union Warren County government employees will receive a smaller pay increase during 2009 than those with modest salaries, according to a budget plan endorsed this week by county Supervisors. In a move designed to further reduce planned 2009 property tax hikes, supervisors on the county budget committee voted Friday to scuttle their own pay raises and reduce others among county workers through a tiered pay-raise system for all non-union employees. This four-tiered system will still allow county employees making less than $40,000 annually to receive the previously agreed-upon 3.5 percent pay increase, but those earning greater than $40,000 will receive less. The move comes at a time when tension between county supervisors and county department heads have become more palpable as the supervisors have repeatedly mandated departmental budget cuts. The proposed tiered pay increase system would pay those making up to $40,000 annually a guaranteed 3.5 percent increase, those making between $40,000 and $60,000 a 2.5 percent increase, $60,000 to $80,000 a 1.5 percent increase and those making over $80,000 only a .5 percent increase. The decisions are subject to a vote of the full Board of Supervisors set for Nov. 7. This is something I had thought of before, Warrensburg Supervisor and County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said Friday,. but I was told if I proposed it, I would have a mutiny on my hands. Supervisors repeatedly said that the state of the national and local economies have reached a point where extreme budget cuts are warranted. I applaud the work of the department heads so far, Geraghty said. We have real problems here and I hope to bring the total county budget increase to 5 percent or less. According to documents presented at the meeting, the total budget increase prior to the adoption of the tiered salary system was 5.46 percent. The meeting boiled over on two occasions. The first occurred when Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed said that layoffs may be warranted, which led to a debate between Goodspeed and CSEA Labor Relations Specialist Jon Premo, a spokesman for the union which represents much of the county labor force. We are at a breaking point, Goodspeed said. Some departments that do not provide necessary public services are going to have to look at salary reductions or elimination of positions. Premo countered that other options were available and that the livelihoods of county employees should not be sacrificed. The supervisors requested a show of hands vote from the department heads regarding a potential reduction of their personal pay increases. After the use of the word layoff, approximately two-thirds raised their hands to sacrifice their own pay to save others jobs. I will go back and take a hard look at my budget, said Warren County Tourism Director Catherine Johnson. I am more than willing to accept less than 3.5 percent increase. The second contentious moment occurred when Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said that the data he had seen suggested that the county sheriffs department budget was out of control. This prompted a strong response from Warren County Sheriff Bud York. Dan took a shot at me publicly, so I will take a shot back, York said. The 2009 budget shows only a .07 percent increase from last year The numbers he (Stec) is looking at are incorrect. Further moves suggested by the committee were to halt the use of county vehicles for private use and the abolition of paid lunch breaks. The Gaslight Village project, the Upper Hudson Railway project and the cost of operation of the fish hatchery were also addressed with some supervisors expressing a desire to salvage county money by halting the municipal involvement. In voting to abandon the pending pay raise for supervisors, Goodspeed said the action was a matter of principle. The economic crises we are currently experiencing is second to only the Great Depression, Goodspeed said. I have a hard time saying to the department heads thanks for the cuts now support our pay raise. Geraghty said that the total amount saved by axing the supervisors pay hike will be only $13,100, but is an important, symbolic move. Officials reiterated their opposition to use of the County reserve funds to offset falling revenue, stating that the amount currently available is far below where it should be. We made some real gains today, Geraghty said. I am confident that we will get to where we need to be.

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