October 18, 2021

County, Homer village furlough workers

Cortland County will lay off up to 75 of its 600 employees from May 4 to July 31 to trim an expected $5 million deficit in this year’s budget, the county announced Thursday afternoon, as the Homer Village Board voted to furlough seven of its 46.

“The lost revenue is mainly due to lost sales tax, many retail businesses are closed and gas prices continue to hover at historic lows,” said County Administrator Rob Corpora. “This revenue cannot be made up when the economy reopens, therefore, the county must make immediate changes to help ease the burden on taxpayers.”

The county layoffs will save about $500,000, said Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Legislature, only a fraction of the expected deficit. “We can’t cut enough to make that up.”

The county’s $142.8 million budget for 2020 levies $37.9 million in property taxes. However, county officials said earlier this month that it expects a drop in sales tax revenue, and a cut as well in state aid.

The county may lose $1.7 million because the state expects it will also lose 15% of its revenue. Corpora also estimated a $1.73 million loss in sales tax revenue, but the New York State Association of Counties said the loss could be almost twice that.

While employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits, they will also be eligible for the additional $600 per week federal stimulus payments. The cuts are being made to maximize the number of people who can get the extra payment, Mulvihill said.

Affected employees will continue to receive health insurance benefits, but must still pay their bi-weekly health insurance contribution.

Corpora has instructed all department heads to implement an austerity budget, which includes no unnecessary travel and no optional spending. The county will fill critical positions as the need arises, giving preference to furloughed employees.

Department heads have been asked to develop a list of employees to lay off by Friday.

“These layoffs are expected to be temporary and we want to make sure our valued employees are taken care of,” Corpora said.

The village of Homer board also voted unanimously Wednesday during an emergency board meeting to furlough seven of its 46 employees from April 2 to July 31 to help make up for an expected loss of revenue exceeding $250,000 — almost all from the sales tax. The furlough will save about $85,000.

The number of employees does not include the mayor or board members. The village did not identify which positions were being laid off because employees hadn’t been notified, but budget document changes from Treasurer Tanya Digennaro show the personnel changes will come from the police, streets, parks and recreation department.

The board also voted unanimously to allow Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe to take $10,000 from the fire station’s fixed assets account, $20,000 from its equipment reserve account, more than $147,000 from the street department equipment account and $19,000 from recreation contractual changes.

The county and Homer are following the lead of the Cortland Common Council, which voted April 13 to furlough 18 city workers from April 16 through July 30, for much the same reason. The council also voted to cut other expenses, including $121,500 in police overtime during the second and third quarters of 2020, saving the city a total of $914,660.