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PROTESTS DERAIL CATTARAUGUS PAY RAISES LEGISLATURE DROPS PROPOSAL AFTER SPEAKERS DENOUNCE IDEA AT HEARING

Public protests over raises ranging from $80 to $6,000 for certain county workers Wednesday prompted the Cattaraugus County Legislature to scuttle the raises.

About 60 people -- including county workers, former legislators and retired persons -- turned out for public hearings before the Legislature.

Humphrey Supervisor Larry Mack organized the protest and showed legislators signatures gathered over a 45-hour period on petitions protesting the raises.

"If you approve these, we will circulate petitions and within 45 days we'll have this up for a public referendum," Mack said. "People here on fixed incomes can't afford these increases. You already put on a 35-cent monthly surcharge for 911; you're charging a $1 a bag for garbage, and passed a budget with a 9.4 percent tax increase."

Plans were to give raises to 71 workers effective Jan. 1, based on a study performed by the county's Personnel Department, which also looked at wages paid in five counties of comparable size.

That law covered department heads and workers holding management positions, while a companion law included a $6,345 raise for the sheriff, $3,541 for the county treasurer and $1,593 for the clerk.

"Shame on you," Gerald Zimmerman of Olean, a probation worker, told legislators. "The county is now in negotiations with other employees. We don't like to see people on top of the heap getting the cake and others just the crumbs."

"I hear the county has cash-flow problems and can hardly meet its payroll now," said John Drew of Little Valley. "I feel people are no longer being hired on their ability."

"You people here are on a spending frenzy," said Fran Brady of Otto. "If the workers don't like their jobs, there'll be more people in here next week to get them. Things are tight all over from George Bush to right here."

Vice Chairman Don B. Winship, R-South Dayton, who sponsored the raises, tried reasoning with the crowd. "The rationale behind this was supervisors are often getting paid more than the department heads. We put together a plan we thought was fair. But the ay raises
timing is never right for something like this."

Republicans ended the two-hour hearing and debate with a short caucus and an announcement from Winship that GOP support for the raises was being withdrawn. He said the Personnel Department will be directed to "start from scratch" to come up with another salary schedule.

In addition to the raises, employees were to get whatever increase is negotiated with 1,000 workers covered in three labor contracts that expire Dec. 31. The county has budgeted enough money to give 3 percent hikes. Negotiations are continuing.

In other business, legislators voted to borrow $2.5 million through tax anticipation notes until July 31 to deal with a cash-flow problem. County Administrator Donald E. Furman said a slowdown by the state in Social Services reimbursements was a major cause.

The county also "eroded its working capital" by making an early payment to the state retirement system rather than stretching it over over 17 years, he said.

He also predicted it will take "two or more budget cycles to overcome the shortage," and legislators can plan on short-term borrowing again in 1991 and 1992.

Because the county must keep its total annual borrowing below $10 million, legislators approved a reduced plan for bonding for public works equipment and projects. Legislators approved bonding for $2.5 million, a $1.3 million reduction from earlier plans.

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