QUEENSBURY -- Warren County supervisors on Tuesday authorized an extension of early retirement incentives for county sheriff's officers as county officials weighed whether they should pursue personnel cuts at the Sheriff's Office.
Supervisors also asked county attorney Paul Dusek to meet with the county labor management committee to discuss re-opening labor contracts with unions to seek concessions, such as unpaid time off.
Supervisors also revealed that, as of Tuesday, the proposed 2010 county budget would bring a 16.6 percent increase to the tax levy, a hike of just under $6 million.
The Board of Supervisors' Personnel Committee opted Tuesday not to fill two vacant county correction officer positions, an action that came after the Budget Committee discussed what cuts would be appropriate to the county's biggest single nonmandated expense - the Sheriff's Office road patrol.
Supervisors said they were told earlier this year that six sheriff's road patrol officers planned to take the early retirement incentive when it was initially offered, but only three did.
County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said he understands that at least one more officer plans to retire in January, and an additional retirement is likely in 2010.
Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said he'd like to have the Budget Committee review the Sheriff's Office staffing levels on the road patrol and jail to see whether cuts can be made.
"I would think we'd give some consideration to reducing the size of the road patrol," said Bill Kenny, Glens Falls' 5th Ward supervisor.
"If you want to reduce patrols, that's going to be the committee's decision, not mine," Geraghty said.
Supervisors said they will look into charging organizers of special events when they request extra police protection.
Sheriff Bud York was not present for the Budget Committee meeting, but at a Finance Committee meeting later in the morning he defended the request to fill correction officer vacancies. He said the county risks losing its ability to board other counties' inmates if the state Commission of Correction determines the jail is understaffed.
York said revenue from boarding other counties' inmates is on pace to increase $210,000 this year.
Supervisors questioned why Washington County runs its similarly sized jail for about $2 million less than Warren County does.
The jail's administrator, Capt. Michael Gates, answered that Warren County's jail budget is higher because correction officers transport inmates to court in Warren County, but that duty is done by the road patrol in Washington County. Also, he said, Warren County has a pre-arraignment "lockup" in its jail that Washington County doesn't have.
Also on Tuesday, supervisors discussed a number of potential budget cutting-measures, including a push to convince the unions that represent county workers to re-open their contracts and have workers take 5 unpaid hours a week. An unpaid lunch hour was suggested by Thurman Supervisor Red Pitkin.
Putting in the unpaid hours clause would save the county $4 million next year, said Queensbury at-large Supervisor Matt Sokol.
"It boggles my mind they can't make these concessions for one budget year," Sokol said.
Mark Murray, president for the Civil Service Employees Association local that represents county workers, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The tax hike in the proposed 2010 budget stood at $5.9 million as of Tuesday, but Geraghty said he believes additional cuts will be made before the budget is done. He said he was continuing to work with department heads, but no one talked Tuesday of additional layoffs. Forty-four county jobs have been eliminated this year.
"Honestly, I can't see us getting this too much lower without doing something drastic," Geraghty said.
The county was also looking into the possibility that up to $2 million in Medicaid reimbursement could be used in 2010, but has yet to get an answer whether that money will be available.