In addition to the increase in staff, Angle complained that the County is dipping into the fund balance. It had set aside $6 million for spending this year, but according to Angle, has already spent $4 million in the first quarter.
"Is this how we should be running a business?" asked Angle.
"This is not a business, it is a government," answered Stoffa, noting that he can't lay off corrections officers and has no control over the Courts, DA or Controller.
"You need to cut employees by 5%, across the board," charged Angle, noting this would save the County $7 million. He warned that both major layoffs and massive tax hikes are only two to three years away unless the County acts proactively.
Council member Ann McHale noted that the county's core services - courts, human services and jail - are off limits, but left the door open to cuts elsewhere.
Stoffa told Council that new positions arise as a result of a new judge and the needs of both the jail and Sheriff, and asked why Council approves these positions if it intends to complain about them. At that point, McHale stated that administrations always turn the table on Council for approving new hires that they themselves recommend. "We're always the bad guys," she complained.
Council member Barb Thierry told Stoffa she respects him and what he's trying to do, but called County finances "a freight train getting ready to wreck. We need to find ways to think outside the box before we are so far out of the box we don't know where it is anymore."
Cutting 5% of the County workforce would mean a reduction of 100 employees. I doubt that would save the County $7 million. It's more likely that the savings wouldonly be $4 or $5 million. The bad will generated by a 5%, across the board, layoff, would be devastating and would undoubtedlyy affect the production of the workforce retained.
But how about this? Since workforce turnover is at least 5% per year, the layoffs can be accomplished by attrition. This would save money and finally force reluctant County administrators to start cross-training its workforce. Even John Stoffa has complained, "We always talk about that, we never do it." The possibility of real layoffs would provide a good incentive for teaching workers skills in other departments.
For example, the Recorder of Deeds has a staff of 13, but the real estate market is only 50% of what it was five years ago. Some of these workers could be "loaned" to departments that are overwhelmed, like the Civil Division.
Blogger's Note: After writing this piece, but before posting it at the witching hour, I noticed that Michael Duck has posted his own, very detailed, take on yesterday's testy Finance Committee meeting. He nails it.