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County job cuts looming, supervisors seek union wage concessions

QUEENSBURY - While government workers were picketing and shouting protests over job cuts Wednesday outside the Warren County Municipal Center, county supervisors inside moved ahead with their plans to abolish 21 positions effective July 1.

Dozens of other jobs in county government will likely be eliminated if unions don't offer wage and benefit concessions, and county department heads don't come up with more cost-cutting ideas, officials said. The actions were part of an effort to reduce a $6.3 million shortfall predicted in the county's 2010 budget.

"These layoffs were a last resort," county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said. "We're hoping that negotiations with unions will fill a $2 million budget gap."

County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty of Warrensburg said county Administrator Hal Payne had prepared a list of a second round of job cuts that may be implemented if union negotiations don't produce substantial savings. Supervisors estimated this list to include about 35 employees' names. Layoffs might total 100 if required to keep the 2010 budget from increasing, they said.

Most of the county's 20 supervisors met behind closed doors Wednesday with County Attorney Paul Dusek to discuss negotiating strategies with unions in upcoming negotiations.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino shared his opinions in open session.

"Maybe it's time for a 10 percent cut in pay, and if the employees don't like it, there's the door."

He said wage and benefit concessions from employees were better than firings and shutting down programs.

"If we reduce each department and program piece by piece, we tear apart our whole structure."

Merlino was reacting to the news that Warren County Cooperative Extension, facing a $116,500 cut, would have to fire four employees of their 10, and cut the programs they offer primarily to those of modest and middle income. Up until Wednesday, they were slated to be cut $235,000, which officials said would virtually close down their operation.

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