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Legislature, Health Commissioner Discuss Layoffs

The Rockland County Legislature's Budget & Finance Committee met with the Health Department to discuss the proposed budget for 2013, which includes cutting 12.5 positions. Check back with Patch for a second update on this

 

Last Thursday night, the Rockland County Legislature Budget & Finance Committee discussed the 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.

Here is what's been discussed so far:

  • Sheriff Makes Case For Restoration Of Budget Cuts
  • Proposed County Budget—Public Safety Concerns (Highway Department)
  • Proposed County Highway Layoffs May Reduce Service
  • Legislature Debates Cuts In General Services

It was an emotional night last week for members of the county health department. Health Commissioner Joan Facelle fought for the 12.5 positions that are being cut in the department and also announced her plans to retire at the end of January.

“On these positions … commissioner of health has said that these positions are CSEA or RAM. We have a contract with CSEA which says that there will be no layoffs through Dec. 31, 2013 for budgetary reasons. Tell us why these are not budgetary reasons,” said County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger to Stephen DeGroat, finance commissioner.

“County executive with the county attorney’s office has made a determination, in their opinion, that if an entire department is eliminated or an entire department’s services are contracted outside, those items are not considered a violation of union contract,” answered DeGroat.

Schoenberger said that he didn’t understand why there would be a problem with contracting services out to save the department money.

“None of these positions are contracted or privatized,” said DeGroat. ” All of these … are elimination of programs,” and Facelle added “with the exception of Nyack Hospital (which) will be operating the prenatal clinic.”

There are two programs that would be eliminated due to the layoffs. 

Petroleum bulk storage is a DEC delegated program and overseas the inspection of gas tanks.

“Abolishing the PETRO (Petroleum bulk storage) positions … would eliminate the entire program in the department,” said Schoenberger.

Facelle added that theoretically, the New York State would step in to run it.

Positions at with the prenatal clinic are also on the table and at risk at being cut. When asked if there would be any other positions still involved with the clinic after these proposed layoffs, Facelle said that there are other positions who spend time in the prenatal clinic and one part time employee.

“When this budgetary unit was created at the end of 2011, certain positions were put into this budget … it was made based on percentage of time that a person spent in the prenatal program,” said Facelle. “The understanding at the end of last year had been that the clinic would be funded for an additional year to allow us time to make plans for the 700 or so births a year that we have. Nyack Hopsital was very interested to take this on. We received approval for our closure plan. Everything is on target for (the closing) on Jan. 1.”

Letters to the remaining patients are in the process of going out. For those that wish to stay, they will see a change in the support staff (nutritionist, nursing, social work), not location.

In the Health education and Health Promotion division there are three layoffs—one employee who does breast feeding prevention, one employee who does school health and wellness and one who does tobacco cessation

“They do not spend 100 percent of their time in a single function. While they identify with these programs, there are times when the do additional work,” said Facelle. “Program elimination is being done out of financial necessity. These decisions were made out of necessity. We’re at the point where … it’s like asking, ‘do you value your right arm or your right leg?’”

“Our concern is that it’s not just the right arm or right leg, it’s the heart,” said Schoenberger.

Check back with Patch for a second update on this, which will look at the reactions from employees, whose positions are at risk of being cut, and reactions from the public. 

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