Proposed job cuts in Otsego County are a sobering reminder of the fact that we are a long way from working our way out of the recession.
County board members were at work recently to trim the budget, with the goal of avoiding a double-digit property tax hike. While we are not happy that eight people could be losing their jobs under this budget, we appreciate what the county board is trying to do.
Many commenters on The Daily Star's website don't seem to be feeling so charitable. Several people have suggested that the board members should look inward to determine possible efficiencies.
In fact, Rep. Stephen Fournier of Milford recently proposed just that. At a Nov. 3 meeting, Fournier suggested a 10 percent cut in board members' salaries. However, the proposal didn't get off the drawing board, because such a change would require a referendum _ a lengthy process that might not be possible to complete by the time the budget comes due.
We understand the frustration that the board is asking others to make sacrifices that its members will not face. In a way, it doesn't seem fair. But realistically, a 10 percent salary cut to board members would not make much of a dent in the budget gap the county is facing.
For better or for worse, it's among the county staff that the most substantial savings can be reaped.
"Personnel costs are long-term, and we have to look out for the long-term," Rep. Donald Lindberg explained. "Say someone works for the county for 30 years, then retires and lives another 30 years. We'll be paying that person's health insurance for 30 years after retirement, 30 times maybe $10,000 a year. That's $300,000, and that's just one employee."
Again, we don't relish the thought of people losing their jobs _ nor the thought of nine vacant positions being eliminated. Jobs are scarce enough around here _ particularly those that carry health benefits.
But the county is faced with the same dilemma seen by employers across the country: How do we remain financially solvent? During a recession, businesses know that higher prices are the opposite of what customers want. Similarly, the county board doesn't want to raise taxes. It's hard to argue with this logic.
Fortunately, we don't have to sit by and idly speculate about what the county could or should do. We can voice our opinions to the board directly. A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the county courthouse in Cooperstown. We hope people will take advantage of this opportunity to provide their input.