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Voluntary Furloughs, Retirement Incentive Round Two Part Of Union/ County Deal

Katie Zilcosky

Voluntary furloughs and reopening the retirement incentive program are part of a new agreement between the largest county workers’ union and Onondaga County. Compulsory furloughs are also a part of the deal.

The furloughs would allow employees to maintain their health and dental insurance, and some people may be able to qualify for unemployment. County Executive Ryan McMahon said he is happy to reach an agreement.

“This is a tool that will help us avoid some layoffs for sure but some layoffs are still a part of the equation. Although we will certainly wait to see what kind of participation we receive for our voluntary furlough.”  

Those who participate in the voluntary program would be required to take at least one week of furlough through March 31st 2021. McMahon said it may appeal to employees who have health concerns or trouble with childcare.  The county is still trying to cut around $6 million worth of work hours, and will start the cuts late next week.

“The reality is this is what we have to do. We have to balance a budget in 2020 and we need to put forward a budget in 2021 as well. There are some variables that can change: sales tax can get drastically better. I don’t think it will get drastically better I think it will still be bad. I just don’t think it will be as bad.”

Or, McMahon said, there could be October coronavirus stimulus bill, but he’s not hopeful.

Despite budget trouble, Onondaga County health data is still faring well. Voluntary COVID-19 testing of school staff from across the county has resulted in zero positive cases so far. McMahon said even though there is good health news, it’s still not time to relax.

“Because everything’s gotten better and we’re really hunting for asymptomatic cases to prevent problems, we still need to do what works: distancing, mask wearing within six feet, are still the rules.”

Testing of high school students will begin with an open testing site at NBT Bank Stadium this weekend. McMahon said a full plan for testing students during the year will soon be released.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.