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Oneida County Executive calls for 2011 salary freeze of county employees

By EMMA WRIGHT

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oneida County employees might not be getting pay increases this year.

County Executive Anthony Picente says times are tough, and he is proposing a delay in pay increases in 2011. He says it would mean a significant, much needed savings in the county budget.

Picente sent a letter to the four unions - United Public Service Employees (Blue Collar and White Collar), Oneida County Sheriff's Department Employees Local 1249, and Oneida County Sheriff's Deputies PBA - on Monday, outlining his request.

Picente says that thanks to the economic downturn, more people living in Oneida County are out of work and in need of assistance. Medicare cases have increased by more than 2,500 in 2010, and more than 42,000 Oneida County residents are now using Medicaid.

The cost for Medicaid is about $54 million. Oneida County's tax levy is $62 million.

Union contracts are up on December 3, and part of the money-saving measure would require union employees to forego automatic raises and go back to the bargaining table in 2012.

Picente says the measure will save between $3 and $4 million in 2011 and could also help avoid potential tax increases and layoffs.

"This could avoid layoffs...and other service reductions," Picente said. "It is really a matter of an alternative....a much favorable alternative."

Picente says he will be meet with union leaders later in the week.

NEWSChannel 2 contacted union leaders for comment. Local 1249 said at this time they have "no comment" and the others did not return calls.

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