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

Public protests over raises ranging from $80 to $6,000 for some Cattaraugus County workers moved politicians to scuttle those plans Wednesday.

About 60 residents -- including county workers, former legislators and retirees -- turned out for public hearings before the County Legislature.

Humphrey Supervisor Larry Mack organized the protest. He showed legislators petitions protesting the raises that were gathered within 45 hours.

"If you approve these, we will circulate petitions, and within 45 days we'll have this up for a public referendum," he 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," Mack said.

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

Department heads and workers holding management positions were among those earmarked for raises.

Proposed raises included $6,345 for the sheriff, $3,541 for the treasurer and $1,593 for the clerk.

"Shame on you," scolded Gerald Zimmerman of Olean.

"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," he said.

"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," Drew said.

"You people here are on a spending frenzy," said Fran Brady of Otto. "If the workers don't like it in 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, attempted to reason with the residents.

"The rationale behind this was supervisors are often getting paid more than the department heads," Winship said.

"We put together a plan we thought was fair. But the timing is never right for something like this," he said.

Republicans ended a two-hour hearing and debate with a short caucus and an announcement from Winship that support for the raises was being withdrawn.

He said the Personnel Department will be directed to "start from scratch" on a new salary schedule.

In addition to the raises, employees were to have received whatever increase is negotiated with 1,000 other county employees, whose contracts will expire Dec. 31.

The county has budgeted enough ay-raise plan
money to give 3 percent increases. Talks are continuing.

In other business, legislators voted to borrow $2.5 million through tax-anticipation notes until July 31 to correct a cash-flow problem.

County Administrator Donald E. Furman said the loan is needed mainly because of a slowdown by the state in social services reimbursements. Also, the county "eroded its working capital" by making a state retirement contribution early instead of 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 to purchase public works equipment and pay for projects. Legislators approved $2.5 million in bonding -- a $1.3 million reduction from earlier plans.

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