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, 2018

Sullivan County Government Employees Need and Deserve Our Help

People often forget and overlook the hardworking Sullivan County civil servant. Once the largest employer of workers in Sullivan County, we have seen our workforce dwindle.

No matter what our criticism of county government might be – we have one of the most dedicated and efficient workforces.

Many people think those who work for the government are overpaid and do very little – That is furthest from the truth.

County Government Employees often earn less than those working for other municipalities.

I asked Teamsters representative Jerry Ebert and several county workers to speak directly to you about the Sullivan County workforce and the need not to overlook them. Here is what he had to say.

By Jerry Ebert, Teamsters Local 445

and 15 County Employees

You receive more direct services from our 750 Sullivan County Government employees than from any other taxpayer-funded entity.

Yet we are paid on average $10,000 per year less than equivalent positions in local school districts, nursing homes, prisons, the state and federal government, and remarkably, even local towns and villages.

McDonalds employees and custodians at the new casino make more than many of us. A local dollar store recently lured away a county senior accountant with an offer of better pay working its office.

Many of us are required to have advanced degrees, yet hardly make enough to afford our rent let alone our student loans.

Some of us take home about $325 per week, and qualify for food stamps.  

We are at the bottom of the financial totem pole. Check our pay scales on the county portal; they are abysmal.

Especially with the exploding opioid crisis nationwide, our workloads are staggering. These challenges will only intensify as the new casino opens. Yet with the ongoing exodus of county employees to better-paying jobs, many county departments are at skeleton-crew levels.  

Faced with all this, we continue to provide a high level of vital services to county taxpayers. Our only motivating factor is that most of us are born and raised in this county, and care deeply about its future. 

When you call 911, you are calling us.  

When a child molester or other high risk felon is sentenced to community-based probation, our officers are your front-line of protection.     

Your county roads and nearly 500 county bridges are plowed and maintained by us. 

If you report a child being molested or neglected, our CPS workers spring into action. Many of these situations are horrific and would rip your hearts out.    

We help train your unemployed for re-entry into the workforce.

Need to renew your car registration or gun license? That’s us. 

When your mother or father can no longer fend for themselves, our Adult Care Center provides better attention and services than any private nursing home.  

Our Veterans Service workers assist our local wounded warriors as well as the aging soldiers from our nation’s many conflicts.  

How about research a real-estate deal? We’ll help you.    

Our Office of the Aging, Adult Services employees, Public Health Nurses and Staff, and Home Health Aides make sure our county’s senior population is not being abused, exploited or neglected, and provide help for many needy families.    

Your homeless are sheltered by us. The looks in the eyes of the children sometimes haunt us.    

Your substance-addicted receive our counseling and support. 

Your paroled violent felons, including paroled murderers, child abusers and gang members, are all drug-tested by us. (Our most dangerous moment comes when the test is positive and we’re obliged to tell the parolee he’s going back to jail.)

Your mentally-ill and physically disabled depend on our services.

If you run out of heating oil and have no money, we make sure you are supplied. 

We handle your county court dealings. 

The Deputy Sheriffs in our sister union rush to your aid when you call, risking their lives every time they come upon an accident or break up a domestic disturbance. 

We manage the county’s tourism industry, and work to attract new businesses to buttress our tax base. 

When your town or school district falls short on its tax collections, it is our county budget that makes up the difference (averaging over $20 million per year!) 

Your village and town officials and police call us when they observe a resident in need; we take it from there, saving your municipality the expense. Likewise, when they have a road or bridge they can longer finance, they ask the county to take over the work.

Virtually all of us live in Sullivan County. Many of us are lifelong residents, and are instilled with the hard-work ethic that separates our county from downstate ones. 

We are your neighbors, your relatives and friends, your fellow taxpayers. 

We are you.

We know the county administrators and legislators are concerned about us, and are aware of the swelling turnover rate of employees leaving county service.

Yet they are afraid to allow us the raises we need because they are afraid county taxes might increase.    

Most county taxpayers (especially us!) struggle to pay their property taxes. We hope our raises will come from casino-generated taxes, but no one yet knows. Until we require religious groups, non-profits and corporations to pay more taxes, until we insist the federal government finance local schools instead of foreign ones, until our nation tackles its out-of-control medical costs, until we require able-bodied adults to work for financial assistance, all taxpayers will suffer.   

We argue the county leaders budget over $220 million per year, and if one percent of that was spent improving our pay, it would provide the significant raises we need. Last year the county increased the average pay of upper-management employees by $3500; they deserved it, and so do we! 

We argue the very high turnover rate among county employees costs the county taxpayers many thousands of dollars in lost training costs.  (As an example, the state requires many of our workers to take consecutive days of instruction in Albany.) It boggles the mind that our county provides free training for other counties. In many departments there’s an underground network spreading the news when surrounding counties have equivalent positions available at higher salaries. 

We argue the majority of county employees are forced to work two jobs to pay our bills, which impacts our ability to raise our children. The past five years our pay has increased only four percent total!  Many of our co-workers are making less in 2018 than last year and the year before, because of the increase in payroll deductions for benefits. This and other factors are crushing our morale and damaging our family life. 

Finally, we argue that if our country is ever to restore its broken Middle Class, it must increase the pay of the Working Poor. Most of our local economy is service-oriented: how can it thrive when we are not thriving?

Most of us county workers ARE the Working Poor. We’re nowhere near the Middle Class, and one flat tire away from broke. We’re tired of being tired. We’ve been twisting in the wind so long, our only certainty is uncertainty. We need stability. 

In our current negotiations for better pay, the county’s response has been to offer us a $750 per year increase if we agree to lesser medical benefits. We cannot do this; many of our co-workers suffer from cancer, diabetes and other maladies, and would see their medical costs skyrocket if we accepted a more mediocre plan. It burns our souls to think the county is asking us to finance our own raises. We will not betray our co-workers, nor will we sell-out future employees by agreeing to lesser pay and benefits for them.

There is one thing you can do to help us: respectfully tell our county administrators and legislators to do the right thing, and allow us a significant raise. They need to hear it from you. 

As for us, we are not backing down, and we are not going away. This is our time to stand and fight. Whether it takes a few months or a few years, we will not settle for less than what we need and deserve.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” the poet Langston Hughes once observed.” This time, we will not be denied. 

We give our best and ask your best. 

Thank you.

Thank you – Jerry Ebert and County Employees!

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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