Last Thursday afternoon, the Rockland County Legislature Budget & Finance Committee discussed the proposed cuts in the Department of General Services. Later that same day, there were further debates on layoffs with the heads of the County Highway department and Health department. This is just the beginning of the legislature's budget review process.
“Ultimately this is the county’s proposed budget and the department head has to come here and defend it,” said Ilan Schoenberger, county legislator.
About 15 people attended the meeting, during which Charles "Skip" Vezzetti—county highway superintendent—expressed his deep concern on the impact of public safety if the proposed cuts are made.
Nicole Doliner, fiscal analyst on the Budget & Finance committee, said that department heads and the county’s budget staff may have numerous discussons about abolishing and creating items in the budget, but once those “ talks and reviews are completed, the budget and finance office puts together this (proposed) budget which is presented to the legislature. Sometimes there are additional additions and deletions, after those talks with department heads that are not exactly what the department heads want or have agreed to.”
County Highway Budget Breakdown:
Doliner gave a brief overview of what changes the proposed budget would impose upon the highway department (MEO stands for Motor Equipment Operator):
- 7 new positions are being created—“These are the positions being created that don’t presently exist in the budget,” said Doliner. “The (seven positions) being created—which are MEOs—while a corresponding laborer position is being abolished. The salaries are the same.”
- 12 positions are being eliminated—“The positions may be gone, but the individuals in those positions may or may not be the ones to be eliminated because of bumping rights and seniority.”
- “This gives us a net of negative five positions,” which are currently held by a person.
- “There are two MEO level 3 are being abolished and MEO1s are being created in their place, (which) shows a savings.
- The above numbers refer to the highway department's county road fund. There is another abolishment, bringing the total number up to six, in the roadmachinery fund.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years and this is the thinnest roster for the highway department that I’ve ever seen,” said Doliner. She added that “when people are let go from the county, there are expenses … (such as) unemployment insurance, vacation accrued, pay for the five days of deferred payment that occurred in 2012. These expenses, I don’t think they’re taken into account for the budget.”
“Unfortunately, the personnel budget shows the elimination of some employees … I have concerns there,” said Vezzetti. “(The cuts) will make it difficult to proceed. In my original budget presentation … because of our lack of personnel and reduction over the last three years, I had asked that we reclassify our laboring positions to MEO1 positions. It allows us the flexibility with people who are normally laborers to be drivers as well. The new MEO1s would alleviate those that have been driving during the storm.”
“By creating these new positions that have skill qualifications, (Vezzetti) is then better able to better manage his department,” explained Doliner to the other legislators.
Vezzetti added that there is one reclassification—“it’s on the skilled labor and tree specialist. We have a guy that goes up in a bucket and operates the bucket under very dangerous conditions. Under the last layoff, he got bumped (to a different position).”
Check back with Patch for a second update on this