Sunday, February 14, 2010

Luzerne County's Staffing Woes

The biggest problem in Luzerne County eminates from its workforce. Read the Times Leader article by Jennifer Learn-Andes and Steve Mocarsky to find that there are 1698 full time workers in the county. Maryanne Petrilla and Thomas Cooney are telling us there is no place to cut yet their consultant firm told them they could eliminate 150 employees.

Luzerne County is the second highest employee to population ratio and ranked third with total number of employees. Chester County, ranked number 1 regarding employees has one hundered eighty thousand more residents but only 283 more employees.

“We’re trying to trim and do more with less. We’ve made a commitment that we’re going to try to streamline government and operate as lean as we possibly can,” said Petrilla, the board chairwoman.

Petrilla has publicly said that the county’s decision to furlough 72 workers last year hurt some services. She also said consultant Public Financial Management’s option to cut another 150 positions in one year was unrealistic. Cutting 150 positions could save an estimated $6.4 million this year, the consultant said.

Cooney, who replaced former commissioner Greg Skrepenak in December, said he met with all county departments, and most have fewer employees than they did several years ago. He said he will consider any suggestions on reducing expenses.

“Overall, the departments are running with less, which is what the public wants us to accomplish,” Cooney said.

But minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban continues to maintain that there is still room for reductions. He said he heard few complaints about service cuts after last year’s layoffs.

Among his suggestions: switch court tipstaffers to part-time, get rid of a Hazleton solicitor position in the register of wills office and cut at least one position from recorder of deeds due to the office’s decreased workload.

Urban said he also believes the county administration could survive with fewer employees.

Here's a suggestion for the Luzerne County Commissioners. Read this paper, Preparing Allegheny County For The 21st Century, regarding the reorganization of the various departments in Allegheny County.

Reduce the Number of Departments

The government of Allegheny County is very fragmented with 30 departments, ten row offices, and an independent court system. These departments range in size from a high of 1,700 to a low of three employees. The director of each of the departments reports to the County Commissioners.

The Committee recommends that governmental functions be consolidated into a much smaller number of departments. There are several ways in which this can be done. A proposed organization chart depicting county government with nine departments is shown on page 13. This char is considered one
option and is not meant in any way to reflect a single ideal reorganization. However, the benchmark counties all had fewer departments, and many had reorganized in order to make such reductions.

Merit-Based Employment System and Employee Ethics

To attract and retain the most competent employees, thecounty need to institute a merit-based employment system.The system needs to be designed to treat all people fairly andequitably while encouraging high levels of performance formemployees. The county should also recruit highly professional and experienced managers. The selection process should try
to identify the most competent and qualified individualsavailable.

Allegheny County has approximately 8,000 employees. Theseindividuals can be hired by the County Commissioners,individual row officers, or by the court of Common Pleas.

Improve the Organization

· Reduce the Number of Departments

· Institute a Merit-Based personnel System Including a Model Ethics Code

· Appoint a Standing Government Improvement Commission

I makes sense and after all this is Luzerne County. If someone can explain why we absolutely need a Recorder of Deeds and a Register of Wills.

Dan Onorato made this statement as part of his 2009 Budget Address.

This year we successfully completed the final phase of row office consolidation with the creation of the Department of Court Records, which combined the former offices of Clerk of Courts, Prothonotary, and Register of Wills, and the Department of Real Estate, which was previously the Recorder of Deeds. We have now reduced the number of row offices from 10 to 4, saving taxpayers more than $1 million annually.

The Luzerne County Study Commission is polluted in its thinking, not sure if it is on purpose or not. Mr. Haggerty is trying, not actually going out of his way, to use the commission to benefit his political aspirations. An appointed manager would not be independent like an elected manager. An appointed manager would always have his job haning over his head by the political elected Commissioners. Its a shame we have an opportunity to streamline Luzerne County but he is standing in its way.

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