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November 15, 2012

Otsego County could cut 10 jobs in 2013 budget

By Joe Mahoney
Cooperstown Crier

---- — As the rough parameters of Otsego County’s 2013 budget take shape, it appears that about 10 county jobs will be eliminated and some public services will be reduced, county Treasurer Dan Crowell said Tuesday.

Crowell said he still seeks to carve about another $200,000 in spending from the draft spending blueprint. A final budget for the coming fiscal year is expected to be adopted by the county Board of Representatives by early December.

The treasurer said he expects total expenditures in that plan will come to about $125 million, up from about $117.4 million in the current budget.

Because about 20 county jobs have been slashed in recent years because of the national economic downturn, Crowell said, it has becoming increasingly difficult to identify cost savings without scaling back on services provided by the county.

“At this point, when a position is being cut, there is going to be a reduction in service,” he said.

Crowell said several of the job reductions will come through attrition — by leaving vacant openings created through retirements.

The Board of Representatives, he said, has reached consensus on eliminating one Office on Aging worker involved in dispensing information to senior citizens regarding federal government services.

It also appears that the board will retreat from an initial push to cut two road patrol jobs from the Sheriff’s Department after Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. assembled an array of statistics showing that crime reports, jail admissions and drug investigations have all risen markedly in recent years, Crowell said.

The tentative budget plan calls for an increase in the county subsidy to the 174-bed Otsego Manor nursing home to $5.5 million. Currently, the county spends about $3.3 million to keep the nursing home running. County lawmakers seek to line up a private operator to run the home, a process expected to take at least a year to complete.

John Imperato Sr., president of the local unit of the Civil Service Employees Association, said while he has not reviewed the draft budget plan, he has strong concerns about the apparent readiness to cut jobs, including the staffer at the Office for Aging.

“The county is down to the bone” when it comes to staffing, he said. “I feel bad for the department heads.”

Imperato said an unwillingness by county lawmakers to consider even a modest tax increase will likely contribute to additional deterioration of the county’s infrastructure, such as roads. He added that it would behoove the county to put contingency plans in place to fund needed capital projects that could stimulate the region’s economy.

“I think the fact they have been so frugal is backfiring now,” he said.

At the same time, Imperato, who works in the 911 emergency services call center, said he was pleased that the board is apparently not going to cut jobs at the Sheriff’s Department. He suggested that do so would have jeopardized public safety at a time when public demand for law enforcement services is growing.

One lingering issue facing county lawmakers is whether to extend the staff cuts to the office of county Clerk Kathy Sinnott-Gardner. She has indicated that any job cuts would be highly detrimental to the office and hurt its ability to produce revenue for the county. The clerk’s office, which has had jobs taken in previous budgets, operates the Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Oneonta and Cooperstown.