By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
At least two Jefferson County union employees have received layoff notices, and another may as well.
The layoffs are due to reductions to the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget after Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees were withdrawn from the Jefferson County Justice Center due to medical compliance issues.
Jefferson County officeholders have sent three total notices of layoffs, said Jeremy Noelle, a representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
“I haven’t heard back from each officeholder on how they are going to attack the 20 percent budget reduction,” he said. “Some officeholders may be able to go elsewhere to provide relief to that gap in the budget.”
Layoff notices have gone to employees in the offices of State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman and Circuit Clerk John Scott. They have 45 days’ notice, meaning their layoff is effective at the end of June, Noelle said. He said the least senior employees in elected officials’ offices are those most likely to be laid off.
At least one employee is working with reduced hours instead of being laid off. County Board Chairman Robert White said the newly-hired administrative assistant at Jefferson County Animal Control has immediately begun working a 32-hour work week. He said AFSCME did not have an issue with that arrangement.
Noelle said the specifics are not negotiated for that position, but that the office said they were able to secure funds in order for the administrative assistant to work reduced hours for a limited amount of time.
It is not known at this time whether layoffs will be temporary or permanent, as the county is still in the process of securing bids for medical services, which must be in place before ICE will allow its detainees to return to the county jail.
Noelle said he is hoping and praying the budget will return to normal and allow the employees not to be laid off.
“What caused this process is very sad,” he said. “... With the ICE inmates gone, that’s a huge chunk of the budget being gone. The really sad part is the people being laid off are totally innocent in this.”
He said if or when the county is able to bring ICE back and restore its budget partially, AFSCME and the affected employees would be notified of a date to return to work.
The county currently has secured one quote from a vendor who can provide medical services in compliance with the standards set by ICE, White said, as well as a quote from one local physician interested in providing medical services for local detainees only.
A meeting of all county officeholders is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday with the purpose of finding out the status of the current budget situation, White said.
“I am quarterbacking through the budget, but I’m not telling them specifically how to handle it,” he said. “Their job is to run their offices, and my job is to have a balanced budget.”
He said he plans to provide county board members with information about the county’s relationship with ICE.
“I don’t have all the information to present to them, up or down do you want to keep ICE or not,” he said. “There are a lot of factors. I will be laying it out for them to look at. I have come to my own conclusion, but until these gentlemen weigh in not I’m going to release that.”