County contract addresses what would happen in another shutdown

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If the state government shuts down again, Mower County is a little more prepared.

On Tuesday, the county board approved three-year contracts for the AFSCME union, which includes many of the Health and Human Services employees.

If another shutdown occurred, the contract clarifies what would happen if the county once again laid off employees or made them take an involuntary leave of absence.

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The difference is that the employees’ contracts will be frozen.

On June 28, 2011, the county board voted unanimously to put about 39 state-funded county employees — 26 Human Services employees, 13.355 Public Health workers and a 0.5 Environmental Services employee — on involuntarily leave during the shutdown.

Many employees feared they would essentially have to be hired back after the shutdown and would lose their benefits and steps on the payscale.

The new contract clarifies that contracts would simply freeze at all current levels and benefits.

The county has agreed to new contracts with all the unions except the union for dispatchers and the union for jailers and sheriff’s deputies. Those two unions are scheduled for mediation Wednesday.

The contracts are a part of the county’s work toward a 2013 budget plan. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson indicated the county is facing a number of factors in trying to keep down costs. Like in recent years, out of home placement costs — placements of children in foster care, treatment and other facilities — in Human Services are driving up the budget. The county is also expecting to receive about $400,000 less in County Program Aid next year.

“It’s not fun this year for the finance committee,” Oscarson said.