CamCo Pledges $20M in Spending Cuts

by Press Release-Camden County | Dec 18, 2006
CamCo Pledges $20M in Spending Cuts After implementing an innovative cost-savings plan to reduce Camden County's workforce by over 300 employees through early-out retirement incentives and attrition, this week Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. announced an aggressive proposal to cut county and autonomous agency spending by over $20 million. The plan calls for reductions in the number of employees by attrition and layoffs, as needed, sizing employee benefits more in line with the private sector, consolidating all central services, and the negotiation of consistent labor contracts impacting any new employees. This spending cut plan will apply throughout the county government, including all departments, the County College, Improvement Authority, Municipal Utilities Authority, Library Commission, Vocational and Technical School, Pollution Control Financing Authority, Board of Social Services and the County Hospital Complex at Lakeland.

"We hear the plea of taxpayers who want government to do more with less and so we're answering the call," said Cappelli. "We hope that municipalities and school districts will follow this example so that government truly lives within its means just like our hard-working families do each and every day.”

Freeholder Deputy Director Edward T. McDonnell added: "In order to deal with meaningful property tax relief, government needs to make serious sacrifices to ensure affordability for our residents. Whether you live in Haddonfield or Camden City, regressive property taxes are simply out-of-control."

The plan unveiled by the Camden County Board of Freeholders and county agencies includes:

• Continuing the reduction in the number of employees through attrition to meet our goals and layoffs as a last resort and as needed.

• Capping the total number of full-time equivalent employees.

• Expanding the county’s directive that ended the sell-back of unused sick-time for management to also include all new county and autonomous agency employees. Sick time is to be used only for illness. It is not an entitlement.

• Except for emergency vehicles, ending take home of county vehicles and free gas - vehicles will only be used during government business hours.

• Consolidating all central services between the county and its authorities, such as IT, Human Resources, Purchasing, Payroll, Legal and Security - so that county departments and agencies can focus more resources on their core missions. It makes no sense to have multiple offices carrying out the same functions. As in the private sector, existing employees will compete for leadership of the various departments.

• Implementing employee contributions for health insurance co-pays and deductibles more in line with private sector standards. Premiums for these benefits need to be cost-shared - no longer free.

• Restricting retirement benefits to employees only, not their dependents, including health insurance and prescription coverage.

• Negotiating county employee contracts to enforce a 40-hour work-week, fewer holidays, vacation days and paid time off for any new employees – including the end of the ‘Black Friday’ holiday, as proposed by Governor Jon Corzine.

• Eliminating county government payment for public employee union activity, which costs taxpayers over $125,000 per year.

Cappelli and McDonnell also called on the State Legislature to reform the system governing public employee compensation and benefits so that county governments can save even more money for taxpayers. "Unless the state steps up to the plate, some of these long-term problems will never be resolved at the county level," said Cappelli.

Proposals advocated by Cappelli and McDonnell that need state legislative approval include:

• Ending full pension benefits for part-time county employees.

• Ending guaranteed county employment for state grant-funded employees.

• Ending double-dipping - Freezing pensions if employees receive a pension from a previous government job.

• Raising the retirement age to 62. Currently, public-sector employees can retire at the age of 55 with full pension and benefits (upon 25 years of service) for them and their dependents for life.

• Enacting stricter rules on workers compensation in the event of injury where benefits are capped, versus receiving 100% salary for up to a year – to give employees an actual incentive to return to work. In the real world, employees receive statutory workers comp benefits which are substantially less than full salary.

• Allowing counties the discretion to abolish state-mandated offices such as the County Superintendent of Elections.

• Abolishing mandatory public-sector arbitration awards which cost the taxpayers millions more every year in higher benefit costs.

Cappelli called upon county employee union leaders to partner with the Freeholder Board and agencies in the effort to hold county spending in check. “Ultimately the taxpayers are our boss and we need to head off the exodus of residents fleeing the Garden State for more affordable states like Delaware and the Carolinas. Everyone needs to be held accountable here, including my colleagues on the Freeholder Board, the Sheriff, Clerk and Surrogate as well as all of the county’s departments and autonomous authorities - because we need to lead by example. That's why, with the help of our Department heads, we're going the extra mile to cap the total number of full-time equivalent employees and decreasing, not increasing the size of government.”

Freeholder Riletta Cream added: “While there are some who talk about allowing government to grow by 2 to 3 percent a year, we are bucking that trend by instituting annual reductions in head counts.”

"Money Magazine and Philadelphia Magazine have cited Camden County as one of the best places in the country and our region to live, work and raise a family. We want to continue the great strides we've made by reining in spending and changing the culture of government so that taxpayers can keep more of what they earn," concluded Cream.

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Author: Press Release-Camden County

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