Our view: Keep close eye on side effects of Cayuga County furloughs
OUR VIEW

Our view: Keep close eye on side effects of Cayuga County furloughs

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Coronavirus

Cayuga County Legislature Chair Aileen McNabb-Coleman listens as Public Health Director Kathleen Cuddy speaks in March about COVID-19 testing and supplies.

Cayuga County took more than 10 percent of its workforce off the payroll this week to combat what is anticipated to be a big budget shortfall. We believe it was the right move to make, but the Legislature needs to remain open to tweaking the plan as the full effects of the changes become more clear.

The furloughs affecting 72 full- and part-time employees are set to continue through the end of July, with a provision that some people may be recalled as needed. The move is an effort to counter a potential $3 million shortfall in sales tax revenue caused by business closures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 disruptions have led to layoffs and furloughs in almost every workplace, and they are a painful necessity for government, too, with some workers having become more or less idled because their jobs have become nearly impossible to perform. But care must be taken to make sure the cutbacks are done with the least disruption as possible to public services.

Cayuga County to furlough 11% of its workforce amid coronavirus pandemic

To that point, District Attorney Jon Budelmann said that his office can't function properly with two employees on furlough, especially considering that one of them has been working 70 hours per week just to keep from falling behind on work required to prepare cases for court.

To correct serious negative outcomes that may not have been anticipated, the county should reassess its workforce on a monthly basis and gather feedback from department heads as to how things are going.

"As elected officials, we have a dual responsibility to our workforce and taxpayers," Legislature Chair Aileen McNabb-Coleman said.

We agree that temporary furloughs are in the best interest of county taxpayers, and the timing allows affected county staff to tap into the maximum amount of state and federal unemployment assistance.

We suggest other local government leaders explore similar moves. And in all of these cases, the workforce may also be able to help itself through their unions coming to the table to negotiate deferring raises to preserve jobs over the long term.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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