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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December 30th, 2016

New Year’s Resolution for County Employees – The Plight of the Sullivan County Workforce Part 3

As Everyone knows during the past several weeks I have dedicated this column to the plight of the Sullivan County workforce and Teamster Representative Jerry Ebert’s appeal to taxpayers. The response has been very impressive.

This week Jerry discusses his New Year’s resolution for our Sullivan County Workforce.

Sullivan County Employee Realities:                                                                                                        County Employees New Year’s Resolution

By Jerry Ebert, Teamster Representative                                                                                                    Sullivan County Employees

 2017 will be the year Sullivan County employees either succeed at significantly raising their pay or perish on the battlefield.

That’s the resolution I hear from nearly every county employee I represent.

They’re resolved to raise the $23,000 per year minimum yearly salary of 18 different jobs in the county, and resolved to raise the yearly pay proportionally for all positions above the minimum.

It’s common prejudice that government employees make more than private sector employees. However, county employees know the bitter truth: they’re paid an average of $10,000 per year less than equivalent positions in school districts, surrounding counties, correctional facilities, the state, and most astonishingly, local towns and villages.

To add insult to injury, they’re required to pay a huge contribution for their health insurance. It all adds up to many county workers taking home about $325 per week.

They also know how this sad state of affairs developed, for they saw it firsthand.

It’s no accident that over the years more and more responsibilities for the care of our citizens fell to the county to provide, while less and less money was allocated to pay for these services.

Think of all the families in Monticello and surrounding towns and villages who are facing genuine crisis and trauma.

Drug-and-alcohol-addicted parents…the unemployed…people of all ages with very-real mental health issues (especially bi-polar disorder, which seems to fester in our pressure-driven society)…scores of veterans in need, especially from our country’s latest wars…the elderly often abused or abandoned…kids babysat by TV, violent videos and sometimes Uncle Pervie…robberies, burglaries, sexual assaults   …parolees coming home after vicious prison experiences…trauma, trauma, trauma…

If you were a mayor or town supervisor, you’d have two thoughts: your citizens were truly in need, and your local budget could never afford to supply those services.

Until its recent past, Sullivan County was run by a Board of Supervisors drawn from each town. To save their own town budgets, they shifted these expanding responsibilities to the county budget.

Theoretically it was a wise move, because it’s economically and logistically smart to centralize these vital resources.

But in practice, it put the cost of all these services on a relatively weak county government that had little political power to fight for necessary budget increases.

The Board of Supervisors also required the county to “make whole” the towns and school districts for any uncollected property, sewer and water taxes, thus further burdening the county budget.

The board then shifted the cost for repairs and maintenance of many local roads and over 400 bridges into the county’s lap. Also, many towns shifted law enforcement responsibilities to the county Sheriff’s office.

This insulated town and village governments from any political heat over the rising costs of ministering and protecting its own residents and maintaining its own infrastructure.

Therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare might opine.

The true irony is that most local citizens consider themselves town or village residents rather than county residents, yet county government provides many more direct services to them.

Then came the Great Recession in 2008. When it hit, it walloped Sullivan County harder than any surrounding counties because it was  already behind the economic eight-ball.

The county budget was slashed, and departments reduced to skeleton crews despite burgeoning workloads.

County employees went into negotiations two years into the recession, scared that the entire county economy was entering a long period of decline not unlike the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They settled for a contract that provided no raises for some years, and anemic raises for the other years, with ever-increasing payroll deductions for medical and other benefits.

That’s how it looked in 2008 – scary. Do you remember?

You might have forgotten because that’s not what happened. Instead, the county economy levelled off.

Now that the casino is set to open in 2018, there’s guarded optimism, but optimism nonetheless. That’s a word not heard in Sullivan County since the heyday of the Monticello Raceway a half-century ago.

However, I wouldn’t use the word optimistic to describe the county workers I serve.

I would use determined and resolute.

They are determined to significantly improve their pay.

Their present contract expires December 31, 2017. If a decent and honorable deal cannot be reached by then, they will keep pushing.

They’re determined no longer to be considered the unwanted foster child of local government.

They’re tired of the phoniness of past politicians who demanded their services but shunned their department budgets.

They’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, and they ask only for a decent paycheck in return.

And they are resolute that 2017 is their year to push forward.

So it’s not really a New Year’s resolution, made to be broken.

It’s more a determination that will not quit. They are resolute.

Once Again – Thank you – Jerry Ebert.

Wishing Everyone a Happy and Healthy New York!

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on 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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