Citizens wary of DEC layoffs, impact in dispute

ALBANY - A state Office of the Budget official said this week that the Department of Environmental Conservation will only shed another 87 employees because of Gov. David Paterson's decision to cut another 2,000 state jobs.

But multiple sources - including DEC employees - contest the budget office's claim that the state's environmental regulatory body will shed this few. These sources predicted that DEC will actually hemorrhage another 209 employees due to Paterson's mandated reductions.

Reacting to the news, State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said DEC is already understaffed and further cuts could cripple the regulatory agency.

"We're seeing right now that roads will be closed that typically wouldn't be closed to our hunters. We have so many issues with DEC as it is," she said. "We just can't suffer one more cut."

Jessica Bassett, spokeswoman for the Office of the Budget, offered a conservative estimate of potential layoffs.

"That can be layoffs, it can be attrition, it can be regular retirements that happen between now and the end of the year," she said. "But layoffs are one way to get that 87 reduction."

The position eliminations will only boost the loss of 272 DEC employees recently shed as a result of the recent state retirement incentive program. Tuesday was the last day of work for those who accepted the buyout.

The additional forced layoffs and position eliminations have been initiated because the response to the retirement incentive package fell short of state officials' expectations.

Bassett said state agency commissioners were just notified of the further reductions this week. She added the local impacts of the cuts to DEC are still unknown.

"The agencies just got their targets on Monday and Tuesday so agencies and the budget division are working together on how to make those reductions," she said.

There's also some confusion about how the workforce reductions will impact the Adirondack Park Agency.

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