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Commissioners Special Meeting

Commission Chairman Percy L. Brown, Jr., called the special meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners to order at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, September 25, 2009 with commissioners Joy and Lawson in attendance.

Commissioner Brown opened the meeting by referencing a letter from attorneys Rudman & Winchell regarding ideas to reduce FY09 spending thus creating a surplus for the FY10 budget. Said ideas include:

  1. Implementing a spending freeze (with a few essential exceptions);
  2. Reduce hours of courthouse employees to 35 hours per week;
  3. Restrict overtime;
  4. Implement a hiring freeze for full-time employees;
  5. Limit all 7K exemption employees to a 42 hour week, no overtime.

The following suggestions were made:

  • To implement a spending freeze, a PO system would be implemented for all purchases.
  • Reducing the work week to a 35 hour week was discussed for all courthouse employees.
  • Register Curtis suggested having registry staff work on restoration projects, through the end of the year, and paying for these hours from the preservation/surcharge account, thus creating a savings of approximately $20,257.00.
  • Sheriff Clark reminded the commissioners that they have to maintain a status quo until the current contracts expire.
  • Commissioner Brown stated that item #3 is related to the restriction of unscheduled overtime. The county can limit overtime, so long as it continues to follow legal mandates regarding the payment of overtime should an employee work sufficient hours to qualify for overtime.
  • Sheriff Clark questioned the commissioners understanding of overtime vs. the union interpretation.
  • Limiting all 7K exemption employees to a 42-hour week with no overtime was discussed. This would only affect sheriff’s department employees.
  • Commissioner Brown clarified that the reason for the cost savings discussion is to save money before the end of the year in order to offset the budget for next year, thus saving positions.
  • Commissioner Lawson stated her concern that some of the towns may default on their county tax payment for this year. She added that given the poor economic situation the county needs this cushion in order to save the budget for next year.
  • District Attorney Michael Povich proposed round table discussions. He added that by working collaboratively we can solve this problem. Commissioner Brown stated that miscommunication is the worst enemy we have, the commissioners do not want to see anyone lose their jobs and are going to do everything they can to see that it does not happen.
  • Register of Probate, Bonnie Cousins asked if employees who are reduced to a 30 hour workweek and are utilized under the surcharge account for an additional 10 hours a week, thus making them a 40 hour employee, would she be able to receive health insurance. Commissioner Brown replied, yes.
  • Sheriff Clark stated that no one has asked him how he could create savings. He would like to work on the process collectively.
  • Commissioner Joy stated that the commissioners do not want what happened in York County happen here, Hancock County has issues that the commissioners are trying to work out.
  • Sheriff Clark reiterated that he would like to have round table discussions in order to create savings. The district attorney agreed.
  • DA Povich stated that the implementation of hiring freezes should have some limitations.
  • Commissioner Brown did not want to get into restricting overtime or limiting the 7K exemption employees to a 42 hour workweek. He preferred the idea of implementing a spending freeze. He would like to save at least $100,000 by the end of the year and explained that the reason for part of the “spike” in expenditures for FY10 is due to last year’s undesignated surplus being applied to reduce this year’s tax contribution by the towns.
  • Sheriff Clark wanted to know why the two million dollar’s from the courthouse reserve has not been considered to offset the budget.
  • Commissioner Brown explained the 5-year plan for replacement of the courthouse roof includes an expensive air handling system. The energy grant that is currently being sought could offset some of this planned expense.
  • The offset of the tax levy was discussed at length.
  • Commissioner Brown stated that the commissioners are in a time crunch in order to present their budget at the public hearing on September 30, 2009. He explained the budget process that they followed in order to meet the FY09 bottom line budget.
  • District Attorney Povich stated that he put together a budget with cuts that he does not agree with, in the spirit of negotiations.
  • Commissioner Brown stated that the process will not be easy this year and that even once the budget is submitted; it is not final until December 15, 2009. He asked the department heads to operate in good faith.

Commissioner Brown stated that the commissioners would not impose any restrictions listed above until they have department head input. Monday’s budget meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will be taken in numerical order, by department. For the purpose of Monday’s budget meeting, the manager’s request will stand firm, the commissioners proposed budget will be in their designated column and the newly proposed department head amounts will show up in the BAC column.

CFO Roy explained that he has anguished over the proposed reductions in this budget. He did what the commissioners charged him to do and that was to present a worst case scenario.

Commissioner Joy asked if he was being naive in trying to meet a $100,000 savings. Commissioner Lawson stated the commissioners should suggest savings and send them on to the department heads. Commissioner Joy added that these suggestions should be taken as the commissioner’s way to save jobs as that is exactly what it is.

Commissioner Brown stated that in his research in trying to curtail spending, he has found approximately $50,000 in savings. He preferred implementing a spending freeze and to implement a hiring freeze on full-time staff. Reducing hours of the courthouse employees to 35 hours per week could be easily done.

The commissioners agreed that would like to give the department heads the freedom to implement cost savings, on their own, during the next 30 days. If the department heads do not choose to participate in a cost savings effort, the commissioners will implement their ideas.

The commissioners agreed to administratively implement a spending freeze on all non-essential spending. A PO system would be created in order for the commissioners to approve requested expenses. It was also agreed to implement a hiring freeze for full-time personnel, the hiring of part-time personnel remains acceptable.

The curtailing of 7K exemption employees to a 42 hour week with no overtime should be overseen by the Sheriff. In the spirit of working together, the commissioners would like the sheriff to closely monitor this request.

MOTION: the commissioners will administratively implement item #1, to implement a spending freeze (with a few exceptions); and item #4 to implement a hiring freeze for full-time hires and to ask for department head cooperation on item #2, reducing hours of courthouse employees, item #3, in curtailing unbudgeted overtime and item #5, curtailing overtime for 7K exemption employees, if possible. (Joy/Lawson 3-0, motion passed)

It is understood that items #2, #3 and #5 would fall under the purview of allowing the department heads the freedom to implement cost savings, on their own during, the next 30 days.

Department heads should respond to the commissioners suggested changes above or add their suggestions by October1, 2009. Implementation of suggested changes, should the department head choose to implement them, should begin on October 3, 2009.

2:20 p.m.
MOTION: to enter into executive session under MRSA Title 1 §405 6(D), to meet with legal council Timothy Pease regarding SO/RCC union discussions. (Joy/Lawson 3-0, motion passed)

5:15 p.m.
Commissioner Brown the meeting back into session.

MOTION: to adjourn. (Joy/Lawson 3-0, motion passed)

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