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County eyeing unpaid days off

Union leaders learn each worker may have to take 12 days off without pay in 2010.

All Luzerne County employees will likely have to take 12 days off without pay next year to balance the 2010 budget, the administration told union leaders and row officers in separate meetings Thursday.

Row officers were also told that they will have to slash 5 percent more from their budgets.

The communication was confirmed by several employees who attended the sessions.

Union leaders were advised to return in coming days with a preference on how to take the 12 unpaid days.

Options include holidays or a roving system in which departments stagger the days off so offices don’t have to be closed.

Individual courthouse employees have already started calculating the financial impact of the 12-day loss.

One union worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the 12-day pay loss will more than wipe out the gain from her union-negotiated raise for 2010. The employee will also have to start contributing to health care next year.

Raises for non-union workers are not planned for 2010.

Minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said he does not support a tax increase because he believes enough cuts are available to fill the remaining gap, which has been reduced from $29 million to $16 million.

Urban said he received an e-mail on Nov. 25 from county Chief Clerk/Manager Doug Pape indicating that Commissioner Greg Skrepenak was not in favor of a tax increase.

But Urban said employees were intensely lobbying Skrepenak on Thursday to change his mind, and Skrepenak is scheduled to meet with row officers this morning. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla has been leaning toward a mix of cuts and a tax increase. She needs a second vote to raise taxes.

“There’s no need to meet with me because I’m still resisting a tax increase,” Urban said.

Urban said he supports switching to a four-day work week for most offices. He said he believes employees would be eligible for partial unemployment if they have two days off per pay period.

A vote on the proposed budget was delayed until next week, which means the final budget won’t be approved until Dec. 30 or 31.

Public Financial Management, the county’s financial recovery consultant, has recommended cutting 150 workers or a 29 percent tax hike.

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