There is a lot to argue over when it concerns Otsego County’s budget situation.
But what is not in question is that the county will have to make difficult and possibly painful decisions to balance its books.
Unfortunately, that could mean departments losing employees. Anyone who has been paying any kind of attention to the economy over the last several years knows that companies and municipalities all over the country have had to deal with this kind of situation — some over and over again.
On the county level, we sympathize with department heads who see every employee as crucial to their agencies. One of those department heads is county Clerk Kathy Sinnott-Gardner.
Sinnott-Gardner has 13 employees. She is so convinced that were she to lose even one that it would lead to dire consequences. Sinnott-Gardner on Thursday threatened the county board to back off … or else.
She said her office would cease processing passport applications and stop issuing veterans’ identification cards if it is stripped of any positions.
Sinnott-Gardner said that if the Board of Representatives takes even a single job from the clerk’s office, she will have to cut the amount of revenue she generates by $200,000.
“They are making themselves look good while they are hurting all the departments in the county,” Sinnott-Gardner said. She said cuts would reduce the county’s finances. “They are going to take two steps forward and three steps backwards. It will be ridiculous.”
We’ll concede that Sinnott-Gardner knows her job and her department better than anyone else.
That said, what she said was way out of line, unrealistic and bordering upon selfish, given the legitimate financial problems facing the country.
Suppose with her current staffing, one of her employees went on long-term medical leave, or on maternity leave. Or someone resigned and it took months to fill the position. Would she then halt processing passport applications and issuing veterans’ identification cards?
We doubt it.
What she would do is what any good department head would do — find a way to get the job done with the people she has.
“Where is the logic in putting people out of work?” Sinnott-Gardner asked.
Well, sometimes, as painful as it may be, the logic is inescapable. She suggested the board consider a moderate property tax increase and county lawmakers spend more time defending county finances by fighting state officials for more relief from state-mandated programs.
Neither suggestion is going to solve the 2013 budget problem.
County Treasurer Dan Crowell conceded that none of the board’s options is an easy decision.
But threats from the head of a county agency don’t make them any easier.