We recently wrote about the hiring binge in Lane County, wondering if County Leadership found a big pile of money as certainly they wouldn’t condone hiring in one area while laying off public safety workers. Of course not, we wrote, to do so would be irresponsible and negligent as citizens continue to tell the county public safety is priority number one. But it appears we were wrong; now we see the plan really is to continue hiring in non public safety areas, while laying off employees in public safety. But let the Register-Guard tell the story.
To balance the budget for the fiscal year that starts in three weeks, Lane County officials plan to cut more than $4.5 million by releasing more jail inmates, eliminating some road projects, reducing treatment programs and slashing dozens of jobs, officials said Friday.
Les Sieczkowski, union president for deputy sheriffs and other public safety workers, said the cuts would run counter to public support for public safety. “The commissioners should look at their programs and prioritize them, and then cut the programs that the public seems to have less interest in,” Sieczkowski said.
But county officials have said they have no choice but to include public safety in the cuts, given that such services absorb as much as 65 percent of the county’s discretionary revenue.
The Lane County commissioners will review the proposed cuts in adopting a budget later this month. The heart of the problem is that county revenue increases about 3 percent a year while county expenses, driven by employee wages and benefits, rise at twice that rate.
Gee, part of the increase couldn’t be due to all the new hiring in non-critical areas? No, of course not, County Leadership wouldn’t layoff public safety employees to pay for non-priority hiring, would they? Yet that appears to be exactly the plan. County Commissioners can’t feign ignorance on the issue either, as they’re going to sign-off on the plan. So it appears the plan is to willfully and with forethought cut public safety, while continuing the hiring binge in non-critical areas (and maybe even give more raises to directors, like December of 2006).
Now that’s fiscal leadership.
It’s a good thing they hired a “207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST” on May 25 this year — we wonder how the county could function without one; without a nuisance abatement specialist the county would plunge into chaos. How many public safety jobs will they layoff to pay the new salary of this and other non-critical employees?
- 207-021 BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER. Filled May 25, 2007.
- 207-016 Performance Development & Diversity Coordinator. Filled May 30, 2007.
- 207-025 LAND MANAGEMENT MANAGER. Currently conducting interviews.
- 207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST. Filled May 25, 2007.
- 207-024 PROPERTY APPRAISER 3. Conducting interviews.
Just a few examples of new hiring shows the complete and utter contempt County leadership has for the citizens of Lane County, who continue to state public safety is priority number one. But for county leadership a nuisance abatement specialist is more important than public safety. As the newspaper reports the Commissioners will approve the new budget plan (including hiring and layoffs), so we can only assume they believe a nuisance abatement specialist takes priority over public safety since they have the power to change spending priorities to public safety and refuse to do so.
Look at http://www.co.lane.or.us/jobs/ and see how many are not in the area of public safety.
In short, when “county officials have said they have no choice but to include public safety in the cuts”, they’re not exactly telling the whole story. How many public safety jobs could be spared if they implemented a hiring freeze a year ago, as a prudent and fiscally responsible person would? (Instead, they gave out raises, hired new non public-safety employees, and announced layoffs in Sheriff and jail personnel).
County leadership refuses to take the simple step of a hiring freeze, instead choosing to hire in non-critical areas while laying off public safety employees. We can only imagine the bizarre reasoning for the pathetic prioritization in the county budget, but could it be a public shakedown for more money? If they gut public safety (citizens’ number 1 priority), perhaps they can shakedown Lane County citizens into supporting a new tax.
Yet all the new hiring (with simultaneous layoffs in critical areas) begs the question: What exactly are the priorities for Lane County Commissioners? It sure isn’t public safety.
Citizens deserve answers from county leadership for the following:
- Why, after being told by citizens public safety is #1, do you continue to hire in non public-safety areas, with the result you layoff what citizens say is priority nubmer 1?
- Why hasn’t a hiring freeze been implemented?
- Why in December 2006 were raises quietly given to directors and managers, while announcing to the media the need for layoffs of public safety workers?
- Why refuse to use the reserve fund?
- What is the plan to prioritize spending to public safety? And what exactly are the current spending priorities (since they aren’t public safety)?
It’s time for County Commissioners to speak up and answer the tough questions, giving citizens the answers they deserve. It’s the least you can do when you’re going to ask for yet another tax increase to pay for failed and bungled fiscal policy.
Let’s hear the answer, County Commissioners. What say you?