The County Legislature began work Tuesday night on the employee layoffs portion of R. Vanderhoef initially called for the layoff of 150 county workers resulting in a salary savings of $8.8 million. However, unemployment benefits would reduce that figure by $2.1 million.
The list of 150 positions was created through meetings between the county executive's office and the heads of various departments, who were to suggest what positions to cut.
While the legislature voted on many of Vanderhoef's proposals at Tuesday night's emergency meeting, they voted to push back their decision on the layoffs until next week's meeting. There were a few reasons for pushing it back, one being that the legislature didn’t get the list of positions to be cut until about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, just an hour and a half before the meeting, according to Chairwoman of the Legislature Harriet Cornell. Another reason was because the legislators wanted more time to go over the positions being cut and because some didn’t think the list presented Tuesday night was a finalized list.
One page presented Tuesday night, and handed out to the public, called for the removal of 47 “vacancy release positions,” or empty positions that have not been filled, from the 2012 budget. A second three-page document included 87 positions slated for elimination at an approximate savings of $6.2 million. Those combined total of those positions is 134, not the 150 Vanderhoef proposed.
Cornell asked Stephen DeGroat, Rockland's acting commissioner of finance, to have the complete list to the legislators by Friday so they will have enough time to go through it before the next meeting.
The positions, which are ones that are open and unfilled, are supposed to reduce the deficit by $2,575,392. However, that number isn’t a definite and will most likely change slightly in the newer list, according to DeGroat. He also said the goal for the final list is still to have 150 layoffs. The lists are provided as attached PDF files.
Officials of the CSEA, which represents most of the unionized county employees, claimed political patronage jobs escaped the proposed cuts.
“It’s bad enough that people are being laid off through no fault of their own, but it adds insult to injury to see that county department heads are sparing political appointees and other friends while making almost all of their cuts in the unionized workforce,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “Once again, the little guy suffers while the higher ups are spared.”
Riccaldo said cuts should be throughout different levels of departments. He singled out the Department of Mental Health but said all departments will not function properly if the list is not revised.
“What’s particularly outrageous is that Department of Mental Health Commissioner MaryAnn Walsh-Tozer is retaliating against CSEA members in her department by targeting for layoff certain case management workers who have been outspoken at county budget hearings,” Riccaldo continued. “Mental Health is actually a revenue source for the county, but the workers who bring in that revenue are being punished because they vigorously defended the services they provide while highlighting Commissioner Walsh-Tozer’s mismanagement of their department. It’s disgusting that department heads that have played a large part in the county’s budget problems remain untouched when the people actually serving the residents of this county may lose their jobs.”
CSEA Rockland County Unit President P.T. Thomas argued the county cannot afford to reduce services further. He said Vanderhoef did not live up to his word that layoffs would be done across the board.
“That promise has been broken,” said Thomas. “By cutting workers who are responsible for collecting so much revenue, these layoffs will actually worsen the county’s financial situation. The commissioners should be ashamed of the disrespectful treatment they’ve afforded the rank-and-file county workforce.”
Thomas included State Senator David Carlucci in his criticism.
“It’s important to remember that had Senator David Carlucci been upfront about his opposition to Rockland’s need for home rule legislation in Albany instead of dancing around the issue for months, there would have been more time to come up with alternate budgetary solutions,” Thomas added.