Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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February 4th, 2011

What is happening to sullivan county?

Unions are suing, people are being fired. County workers are scared, scared of losing their jobs, and scared of retaliation if they speak up. The news keeps getting worse and worse. Sullivan County is on life support.

Legislators are labeling layoffs as being “sad and difficult,” and are holding unions responsible. Our unions may very well be irrational, but where were our legislators months ago? Listening to their latest responses to the layoffs makes them sound like actors on a soap opera. Should we get out the tissues?

Something is very wrong in County Government.

Over the next several weeks, I plan on exploring concerns and fears of our workforce, hear from County Manager David Fanslau, union bigwig Sandy Shaddock, and others.

One has to wonder how chairman Jonathan Rouis will address this catastrophe when he eventually delivers his State of the County address.

Perhaps at the very least he will acknowledge that voters should finally decide if we want to amend our charter and create the position of County Executive. We are entitled to vote on the issue.

The legislature will be up in November, and there are those who are already jockeying for political gain. Some want to kick incumbents out, while others are blaming selective legislators and Fanslau. Our problems are not Democratic or Republican.

Everyone needs to be on the same page and work together. The days of self serving people who only want to protect their own interests must come to a halt. This is not about power or politics. This is about survival – survival of Sullivan County.

Hopefully, once issues are brought out, and anger subsides, we will work in unity and heal. We need leadership. A County Executive can bring leadership.

Shaddock faults the legislature for saying they would not ask for a property tax increase to pay raises and bonuses. She insists the money is there. “They said they were trying to save jobs by instituting the wage freeze. This is simply not the truth.”

Shaddock claims that 38 of the 58 positions vacated due to retirement are still funded. “The purpose was to lower the bottom line and decrease the number of layoffs. The amount for funded vacancies is over $1.6 million, and then the benefits/taxes are $1.2 million. If you are trying to avoid layoffs, why are these vacancies still being funded? What was the purpose of the retirement incentive?”

Fanslau tells a different story. According to him, 51 attritioned positions avoided $2.1 million in expenses and assisted reducing the $12.5 million gap. “That remaining gap was addressed by further cuts, an appropriation of $6.9 million in Fund Balance, the $3.3 million wage freeze and longevity bonus freeze.” He adds certain “retired” positions needed to be filled because of mandates, and not enough employees took early retirement.

“The $3.3 million is not in the budget for increases or bonuses; rather appropriated in a contingency, but is balanced by $3.3 million revenue anticipation from concessions related to the freeze. There is no funding of increases and bonuses without “revenue” anticipated from concessions.”

Fanslau said he ended the vacancy variance process that predecessors used in order to provide more transparency.

Next week- is there hidden money in the budget?

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