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Saratoga County Supervisors Seek Meeting To Address Pay Increases During COVID-19 Crisis

Saratoga County seal
Saratoga County

A pay raise for some Saratoga County employees during the response to the COVID-19 crisis is continuing to generate backlash, with some county supervisors pushing for a special meeting to address the issue.

Saratoga County has taken many actions over the last several weeks, but one in response to the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to frustrate some local elected officials.

In March, Saratoga County, through an emergency committee established to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, instituted a plan to pay 380 employees time-and-a-half in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

At a reported cost of $325,000 a week the move drew outcry from several county supervisors.

Later, the time-and-half pay was reduced to about 40 staff members on the county’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program team.

The county administration in an April 3rd press release said the time-and-a-half pay “is provided to compensate these employees during this time for the unique, stressful, and endless work managing the global pandemic as it strikes Saratoga County.”

But by the April 7th Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, the city’s two elected county supervisors remained frustrated with the county’s decision to pay time-and-a-half.

Here’s Supervisor Matt Veitch, a Republican, speaking to the city council Tuesday.

“It’s really a great uncertain time right now and for the county to turn around pay their own people more money just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s something that should never have happened,” said Veitch.

The frustration was shared by members of the city council, including Democratic city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who earlier in the meeting estimated that COVID-19 could impact the city’s revenues by 29 to 33 percent.

“And if our revenue projection is at 33 percent, I have to assume the county is at the same loss of revenue projections. So this really is astounding,” sad Madigan.

The annual county budget is about $335 million.

Officials are wary of impacts to the city’s summer tourism industry. No changes to the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course set to begin in July have yet been announced, though the training season that was to commence April 15th has been delayed.

Democratic Supervisor Tara Gaston also is against the pay increase, saying there isn’t even a time to discuss the issue on the April calendar.

“And we have no meetings scheduled, that includes oversight committees such as the Health and Social Services Committee, which is overseeing the response to COVID-19, as well as the statutory ending of Code Blue – which for a number of reasons should not take place, the ending – that is not scheduled to take place nor is a full board meeting. To use a word I think someone used a minute ago, I am appalled at this and am committed along with Supervisor Veitch to make sure this is remedied as soon as possible,” said Gaston.

Veitch said he wants to bring a special meeting to discuss the time-and-a-half pay. But that requires a majority of county supervisors on board, which he is still working on.

“We have been able to get 11 supervisors of the Board of Supervisors to agree to the special meeting representing about almost 75 percent of our county population. But our rules are that in order to have a special meeting you have to have 12 supervisors, which is a majority plus one, and a majority population to do that. So we have the majority population, we don’t have a majority of supervisors,” said Veitch.

Reached by WAMC Thursday, the county administrator’s office said it is working on scheduling a meeting, but no further details were given on a date.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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