Sullivan County’s Proposed Budget: Union Give-backs

According to  The MidHudson News,  Sullivan County, NY’s  proposed 2010 budget “includes a five percent property tax increase and the elimination of 49 occupied positions and 54 vacant ones.  The County Manager, David Fanslau suggested union givebacks to save money and jobs.  They would include:

  • requiring all employees to contribute 15 percent of their health premiums;
  • change the 14 paid holidays to 13 full days and two half days; and
  • provide 8 ½ paid holidays and 5 ½ unpaid holidays.

Our County’s real estate sales are down 16% over last year and of the sales we’ve had, 12.1% were  bank-owned foreclosures.

Between September 2008 (when the global markets plunged)  and September 2009,  Sullivan’s unemployment rate jumped 2.2% from 6.4% to 8.6% .

The number of families  participating in New York State’s Food Stamps Program has increased  more than 22% during that same time period.

Some grocery stores in Sullivan County no longer accept WIC (Women,  Infants and Children) vouchers because, according to one manager,  it’s too hard and takes too long  to get reimbursed by New York State.   Although  WIC  statistics aren’t available  for 2009,   the  pre-crash numbers for 2008 showed an increase of 15,000 participants over 2007 (a year in which   the number of participants actually decreased.)

The bottom rung of the  Federal & State reimbursement ladder is  occupied by  counties, towns and  local Boards of Education.  They expend their dollars first and get re-paid last.

Local municipalities rely heavily on  sales and property tax revenues.  Budget managers make a best-guess estimate of what those revenues will be over the next year and propose their budgets on that basis.

For sure, it’s a sad state of affairs.  All the counties of New York State are reeling  under the rising costs of services,  crumbling infrastructures and failing revenue streams but let’s be clear here:  consumers and workers are the same people.  If workers’ wages fall as their health care costs climb, they won’t have dollars to spend in our local shops  — locally-owned shops that  are already struggling to stay alive on Main Street.  To ask  workers who generate income for the entire County to cover the shortfall  is as foolish today as it was twenty years ago.  If I still owned property in Sullivan County,  I would send a note to Mr. Fanslau and Mr. Rouis:  “Unfortunately, I  over-estimated my household income this year.  I will be unable to pay my full tax bill.  I hope you appreciate it was an honest mistake and will  stop  sending me those annoying tax reminders.  Most sincerely,  Liz Bucar.”

Twenty years ago,  I and the People’s Voice recommended that workers earning $30,000 or less  receive their scheduled pay increases without bearing additional health care costs.  We further recommended that  managers and legislators take salary cuts.  At that time,  our aggregated  recommendations saved the County nearly $2 million  without breaking the back of a single union employee.

Twenty years ago,  after  grossly overestimating sales tax revenues,   then-County  Administrator/Auditor Paul Rouis (in concert with the Sullivan County Board of Supervisors)  proposed a 60%+  property tax increase and  Union give-backs.   900  residents showed up for the County’s Budget Hearing that year (1990).   Mr. Rouis and most of the Supervisors  were thrown out of office during the  next election cycle. (For those of you who might be  wondering,  Mr. Paul Rouis  is the father of our current  Chair of the Sullivan County Legislature,  Mr. Jonathan Rouis.)

Twenty years ago, claims were made and substantiated by  Teamsters representatives  that  some  employees of Sullivan County Government were paid so little, they were eligible for Food  Stamps.  Those claims have re-surfaced during this year’s  budget deliberations.  I’ve  emailed  Mr. Jerry Ebert of  Teamsters 445  asking how many of our current County workers are eligible for and/or receiving social service assistance.

*    *    *    *    *

*Editor’s Note:   After searching the Sullivan County Government site for more than half an hour today,  a phone call to the Government Center revealed that dates for the Budget Hearing  are solely and  inexplicably posted under an October 14th  Press Release from Jonathan Rouis.  Neither  I nor the clerk found  another  Budget Hearing notice at the County website.     Breathing hopes you will copy and paste the following dates to your personal calendar  (or check the CottageWorks Community Calendar tomorrow):

Informational Town Halls (Public Hearings):   2010 Tentative Budget in the Hearing Room at the Government Center in Monticello, NY

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12  noon

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7pm.

Solid Waste User Fee  Town Hall meetings will be held on:

–  Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at the Town of Tusten Town Hall, Narrowsburg, NY at 7pm

–  Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at the Liberty Senior Center in Liberty, NY at 7pm

–  Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at the Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro, NY at 7pm

Going forward,  Breathing Is Political will begin covering  the Town of Delaware’s public meetings and encourages others to do the same  in  their  own Legislative Districts and at the County level.  Those “citizen notes”  can  be centrally-collected in a “blogroll” or other forum and will facilitate a coherent  citizen response.  If you believe that political events  in your town and county should be better-attended and more-fully reported, become a  Citizen Journalist.   Email me at

(A partial list of  Township meetings can be obtained  here or at  individual Town websites and a schedule of  Sullivan  County Legislative meetings is posted here.)

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