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Adams County cuts staff pay by 20%

James Rada Jr.
News Correspondent

(8/1) Adams County employees saw their paychecks cut by 20 percent beginning August 31. The Adams County commissioners made the announcement in an August 20 memo. The reason for the cut is that the Pennsylvania state budget impasse could cost the county $4 million by the end of 2009.

"As are other counties around the state, we are planning for the uncertain future of state funding to support of county mandated programs," Commissioner George Weikert wrote in the memo. "In the long term, the only item with the impact needed to survive this challenging shortfall will be our county labor costs. We have only several options available, which include eliminating positions, work schedule reductions and/or borrowing capital dollars to pay salaries during these trying times without state funding available. We will be continually evaluating these long-term options during the next week and will be implementing the selected strategy on August 31. At this point, a reduced work schedule seems to be the most viable option."

Weikert also admitted in a special meeting with county department heads that the change would "cause a lot of pain."

With this change county employees will be working four days a week or 32 hours a week. The work hour cut does not affect the county correctional facility, rehabilitation center and 911 center. No date has been set for when the schedules can return to normal. County offices will still be open five days a week, but fewer employees will be staffing those offices as they work staggered shifts to keep the offices open.

This is one of a number of cost-reducing measures that the county has taken. Other things include suspending overtime, instituting a hiring freeze and minimizing training, travel and workshops.

Pennsylvania counties get state money as quarterly grant and reimbursement payments. However, the state's fiscal year 2010 budget has yet to be passed and the fiscal year 2009 budget ended on June 30. This means that state has gone without a budget for two months and this could affect the quarterly payments due at the end of September.

Unlike the state, the Adams County operates on a calendar year budget so if the state fails to pay the quarterly payment to the county, it will mean that the county's approved budget for 2009 will have less revenue than expected about $4 million less. Making the cut to employee hours is expected to save the county about $500,000 by the end of the year.

There have been local and state protests urging the governor and legislature to come to terms on the budget. In a nutshell, the impasse is because the governor wants to close the state's budget deficit by raising taxes and the Republican-controlled legislature wants to close the deficit by cutting the proposed budget to match revenues. Neither side is budging from their position.

On August 13, a group of about 300 Adams County residents held a peaceful march to let lawmakers know that they wanted a state budget passed. The group was made up of people affected by the lack of a budget, including social service workers, non-profit groups and families and children who use the services. They marched to from the Gettysburg Recreation Park to Lincoln Square holding signs urging budget passage.

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