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County manager's message: Cut budget

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — June 22, 2010 — County Manager David Fanslau told legislators and other county officials last week that costs are going up so far so fast that he has no choice but to cut now.
“I am implementing a moratorium on travel and lodging, effective immediately,” he said in a June 17 memo.
“There will be no approvals granted for optional conferences, workshops, seminars, training or meetings that require any lodging,” he wrote. “The only travel that will be considered will be for same-day events that may be travelled to and from, without any overnight lodging.”
And if a webinar or conference call is offered as well, Fanslau is insisting county workers utilize that in lieu of travel.
He’s also pushing hard for a hiring freeze, though legislators have been reluctant to unilaterally adhere to such.
The unions may be equally reluctant to agree to Fanslau’s proposed wage freeze and contributing at least 15 percent to health benefits premiums.
Yet even with freezes and program cuts, employees will likely be laid off and property owners will likely face tax hikes via the 2011 county budget, which is now under development.
Some of the increases the county is expecting next year, said Fanslau, include the following:
• Eight percent minimum for health insurance premiums ($1 million)
• At least half a million dollars more in pension contributions
• Not counting management/ confidential positions, salaries will go up by $1.53 million
• Half a million dollars more in Medicaid expenses
• More than another $1 million in debt obligations, due to recent bonding activity
• At least $500,000 extra to board out inmates due to the state bearing down on the 100-year-old county jail’s inadequacies.
Sales tax revenues in 2011 are anticipated to be $1.27 million less than 2010’s revenues, and due to this year’s disappointing tax auction results, no revenue will be anticipated from next year’s tax auction, dropping projected revenues by another $1.5 million.
Together with the uncertainties surrounding the yet-to-be-enacted state budget, Fanslau said the higher expenses and lower revenues, unaddressed, could lead to a near-19 percent property tax hike.
Therefore, in addition to the cuts mentioned previously, he’s looking at consolidating departments, reducing paid days off from 41 (given to employees in their first year) to 35.5, providing state and federally mandated programs at the minimum-allowed levels, and developing a priority list for core government services.
He’s even talking about discussing a regional community college system with neighboring counties to help pay for Sullivan County Community College.
“The county won’t be able to sustain the current $5.5 million financial obligation that only promises to grow in future years,” he wrote in the memo. “Also, the college should explore other revenue sources, as opposed to relying upon the current or increased contribution from the county government.”
As a result, he’s planning to craft a 2011 county budget that does not increase spending nor leaves any room for new capital projects.
To discuss these changes in detail, the Legislature has scheduled extra meetings of the Management and Budget Committee over the next six months, all on Thursdays: July 15, August 19, September 16, October 21, November 18 and December 16.
Open to the public, each meeting will be held in the Government Center in Monticello at 1 p.m.
“The paradigm of how we have operated must change dramatically,” said Fanslau, “and that must begin with the elimination of any unnecessary spending.”

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