Friday, January 21, 2011

My Statement as Deputy Director Prior to Freeholder Action on the County Layoffs

The following was read aloud at our January 18, 2011 Freeholder Meeting.
On November 18, 2010, the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders after great deliberation submitted a layoff plan to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission that would reduce the County workforce by 30 positions.  This was due in large part to a Public Employment Relations Commission, (PERC) decision that required furloughs to be negotiated as part of reopening a union contract with appropriate bargaining units rather than the choice of the employer.  The choice to furlough or lay off employees was largely the result of our continued economic downturn which has depleted the ratable base of this county, our main source of revenue via the property tax.  That coupled with increases in group insurance costs totaling 9.9 million and pensions costs totaling 3.65 million has resulted in a projected $4 million budget shortfall on our $94.1 million budget.  After 3 consecutive years of drawing down our surplus, a full hiring freeze and across the board cuts to operating and capital budgets each year, we were left but little else than to reduce the county workforce.  A reduction in force is dictated by state civil service rules.
We have worked very hard to avoid these layoffs and the following resolution will result in saving 10 jobs.  Our administrator, the department heads and all of the staff have found further savings to obtain this result.  We have met repeatedly with the CWA to find more cost savings and we did offer at their suggestion an expansion of our retirement incentive plan.  I thank them for their cooperation.
Unfortunately, for our janitorial staff, who have done a commendable job in keeping our County facilities clean and neat, the price savings to privative this service will result in saving in 2011 $530,000 and in 2012 $$640,847.  This savings is too large to ignore and we have a fiduciary responsibility to make this choice.  We understand that the employees of this new service will need to be screened and supervised closely to develop the same trust we have in our current employees.  We will be doing background screening ourselves though the department of Public Safety and quality control inspections with our Building and Maintenance department.  On top of our past efforts, including securing for these employees jobs here in Hunterdon in the same pension system with the same public employment service time, we will be bringing in the department of labor’s rapid response team to facilitate their transition from county employment.
I am sure my colleagues share my sentiment that we do not take lightly these actions.  We recognize that difficult economic conditions require difficult and painful choices.  This choice which we will now vote on is likely the most difficult one we have to date.

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