Sullivan County lawmakers make deep spending cuts, layoffs, because of financial losses from COVID-19

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MONTICELLO – As the coronavirus rages on, the Sullivan County Legislature today (Thursday) authorized more than $6 million in cuts to the county’s 2020 budget including the layoffs of 77 county workers effective May 2.

“This was the hardest decision this legislature has had to make since taking office in January,” said Chairman Robert Doherty. “We don’t want to cut programs or staff. But it’s the right decision for our taxpayers, who rightfully hold us accountable to maintain the county’s financial health.”

County Manager Joshua Potosek said lawmakers considered a number of factors when choosing which positions could not be performed from home or onsite, as well as what services and programs are essential.

“We also endeavored to minimize impacts on these workers as much as possible. We will maintain their health benefits, and due to the federally enhanced unemployment benefits, they will be assured of earning the same as they were when employed,” Potosek said.

Legislators intend to re-evaluate the cuts in mid-May, when fiscal impacts will be clearer. As funding allows, staff may be rehired.

The county is projecting a $5 million sales tax loss and up to $4 million in state aid reductions, accompanied by a $2-$3 million pension rate hike and the near-certainty of an increase in social services costs.

“In addition to property taxes, our revenue is driven by taxes on gasoline, construction activities and auto sales, all of which have been hit very hard by coronavirus’ impacts, so we’re taking a conservative approach to mitigate revenue shortfalls,” Potosek said.

Besides the staffing reductions – which are anticipated to save approximately $250,000 a month – the legislature also abolished $2.9 million worth of vacant positions and authorized the reduction of equipment and discretionary expenditures by $2.9 million, much of that through deferral of vehicle purchases.