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Board Punts Again

December 9, 2010 - John Stack
I again wonder what the Board of Supervisors in Essex is thinking. The support staff at NCCC got a real Christmas present when the board granted them 3 percent raises for the next three years, plus free health care! New hires will have to pay 8% towards health care. Are there any salary requests the county won’t grant? Last winter, the board also approved a 4% raise for all county management – the highest paid employees in the county. Back then, County Manager Daniel Palmer said it ‘wouldn’t be fair that other employees were getting a big raise and the managers wouldn’t. I still don’t get that one. Are the supervisors and Mr Palmer there for just the employees (especially management) or are they there to represent the taxpayers of Essex County? Let me say that I think NCCC is a jewel in the Adirondacks. I am always supportive of the college. But, when everything else is getting cut, people are still having trouble finding jobs and paying their bills and trying to keep a roof over their heads, how do these workers deserve a contract that is generous in times of wine and roses? Why are our costs so high? FREE health care? Are you kidding? In this day and age? Supervisor Dan Connell said the contract was negotiated by an executive management team at NCCC and maybe it should change in the future. Why? Did this contract sneak up on them? I assumed every entity that relies upon funding from the County should have been on notice that this wasn’t going to be business as usual. We are in the midst of the worst economic times of our lives. If they don’t try getting this under control now, when will they? If the economy turns around in 3 years, will these contracts be even more generous? Will us taxpayers be PAYING employees to take health insurance? I am no fan of Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, but I wouldn’t blame him if he exploded upon seeing this giveaway. This year, my health insurance went up 15%. How much is it going up for these employees? Oh yeah. ZERO. Except for new hires. Who is paying that increase? Oh yeah, us Essex County taxpayers. Lest anyone think the overall Essex County budget is well balanced, think again. The amount to be raised by taxes is $14 million. That’s because the county is using $6-7 MILLION in fund balance to keep the levy down. So, without using these reserves, the tax levy would be $20 million, or another 43%! This decrease in the levy did not come from cuts, efficiencies, reigning in health care costs or anything like that. Just took it from the reserves. Oh yeah. This is sort of like my buddy Gov Chris Christie who ‘balanced’ the New Jersey budget by simply not making a $3 billion dollar pension payment. I’d be able to balance my household budget easier if I could just choose this year not to pay my mortgage payment for 2012. Oh, and any other contract that comes in front of the board? Of course they will point to this contract and expect at least as much. As the economy gets better, they will demand even more! This is an incredible opportunity for the Board of Supervisors to show they actually grasp the incredible sacrifices Essex taxpayers have to endure. But no. They said ‘lets look at it in 3 years’. Rather trying to actually reign in costs, the Board chose to punt on this one. Dan Palmer did say he would have preferred that the county employees renegotiate their contracts, he could see why they didn’t. At the same time, he was OK with free health coverage and 3% raises for the NCCC employees. The contract is up in a year. The smart money says that the next contract is as onerous to Essex taxpayers as this one. Can I write some excuses for the Supervisors all ready for the next contract? How about ‘new employees now have to pay $200 dollars a year towards their $15,000 health insurance. This will save the county in excess of $10,000 in the year 2037” And ‘we chose to continue free insurance for all current employees so we only gave them a 3.5 % raise’. Or, more likely ‘we are making employees now pay 5% of their health insurance so we decided to give them 5% raises to make up for it’ I apologize for lumping in with the rest of the supervisors these supervisors who voted against the contract: Randy Douglas (Jay) Sharon Boisen (Essex)David Blades(Lewis) Tom Scozzafava (Moriah) and Randy Preston (Wilmington). By the way – the board has been looking at a different method of administering the county, as in removing the County Manager and replacing it with some other entity. This should be explored. But also , how about looking at changing the Board of Supervisors into a board of legislators? Then again, I assume they would look at it. Recognize they would be eliminating their own jobs, and decide it wasn’t worth exploring…


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