Otsego eyes personnel needs amid budget gap


Otsego County’s Administration Committee spent almost four hours discussing budgets cuts with department heads Thursday, Sept. 24, in response to a projected deficit in 2021 revenues, with a general theme emerging early in the day: personnel.

“Just to kind of set the tone for today,” said Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford, New Berlin, the committee chair and Board of Representatives vice chair. “We have a lot of positions the committee is going to be reviewing today I think in light of our budget situation, a lot of them ... some of them are recently vacant, some of them are not so recently vacant. I think almost everything we’re doing today is personnel. Everyone has personnel issues.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was held via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook Live.

Kennedy said the fairest way to fill positions when everything is still uncertain with the budget is to divide the positions into urgent and non-urgent hires. Anything that could be put off until October “when we have more information about the budget,” Kennedy asked to be put off.

Kennedy said Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles told her he would have a much fuller assessment of the 2021 budget at the next all-board budget meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, also via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Projections from the New York State Association of Counties forecast Otsego County losing between $2.6 and $8.3 million in 2021 revenue. The first full-board budget meeting of the year ended with a $13 million-plus gap between revenue and expenses and no large investment fund or fund balance to fill the gap. And those deficits come after a 2020 budget devastated by the pandemic, the loss of tax revenue and the loss of state aid, and a response from the county that included layoffs, hiring and purchasing freezes and almost across the board budget cuts.

Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, said the budget issues will force the county to revise itself.

“If we can create some efficiencies and look at that in the big picture, by reorganizing some of the things we do here, hopefully we can save some money and have a better idea of who we need and what for,” Bliss said.

Among the notable discussions, a chain-reaction of Otsego County Judge Brian Burns moving up to run for the State Supreme Court and Otsego County Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Getman being selected to run for his position, will save the district attorney’s office about $20,000, by replacing a chief position with an assistant district attorney position. However, extra hours for appeals work done by Getman will cost about half of that, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl told the committee.

The appeals for delay did not include road crews, which need new hires ready for possible October or November snowfall, according to Highway Superintendent Rich Brimmer.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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