Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau was wrong to dismiss residents’ interest in the 2012 proposed budget as partisan politics. People want the budget to see where the money is going and whose taxes will be raised and whose services, salaries and jobs will be cut to pay for it. One thing is sure: none of this money will be taken from top county management or elected officials.
County legislators loudly lament the lack of cooperation from the unions, exhorting them to work with legislators to give back more. But county employees have finally gotten tired of playing Charlie Brown to the county’s Lucy. In late 2008, Fanslau took over contract negotiations, assembled a cabal of county management, legislators and union negotiators, and crafted a separate side arrangement giving double-digit salary increases to a select few management and union employees in conjunction with significant salary increases and benefits for legislators.
In October of 2009, the county announced they were negating the modest three percent increase for most other management employees because the county wouldn’t afford it. On November 18 of 2009, it was announced that the salaries payable that year to some county legislators would be about $21,000 and the chairman would get $30,606. In December 2010, after extorted as much as they could from the rank-and-file employees on the pretext of saving jobs, these same county fat cats approved further layoffs anyway, saying this was the only way to cut expenses. In a January, 2011 open letter to county employees, legislators claimed that the average employee’s salary was about $42,000, before costs of benefits were added in. If you still have a job, is your salary $42,000 a year? Then this past August, county legislators quietly passed a resolution to “set salaries of certain management-confidential employees” in excess of $60,000. It appears that cutting salaries to save only applies to workers. Throughout all the years of bloodletting, the 2008 increases and benefits for the hand picked few have remained untouched.
Perhaps the most significant thing people should remember as they vote this year is that all of the sacrificing has been forced on County residents and employees. With all the hand wringing and crocodile tears about the pain these cuts cause them, not one of the county’s top management or elected officials has given back a dime of their own self awarded, ill gotten gains. So the next time you hear how we all have to pull together and sacrifice for the good of the county, ask yourself who has been sacrificed and who is slipping away unscathed. Please don’t forget to vote. You may not know all of the other candidates, but you know exactly what you’ll get if the Laura, Moe, and Curly incumbents are returned to office.
Star D. Hesse