Allegany County Legislator Norman Ungermann raised the red flag Monday on employee fringe benefits -- a problem he likened to "a homegrown gorilla."
Ungermann, R-Cuba, said fringe benefits cost the county 50.51 percent of each employee's pay.
Some of these benefits are written into union contracts with nurses, sheriff's employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Although he said legislators would have to negotiate a reduction in such benefits, non-union "managers and mid-managers" could see their benefits change "with the stroke of a pen" in the Legislature, he said.
Ungermann noted that if managers and middle managers were paying "15 percent of their health insurance and a $10 co-pay for generic drugs," the county could save more than $1 million per year.
Ungermann said he believes rich county benefit packages were offered "when the county's coffers were full . . . and salaries were low."
But that's no longer the case, he said.
Ungermann said if action is not taken to reduce the cost of government, "We can see this county financially die -- and I don't want that to happen on my watch."
He said the county's tax rate is higher than that of other surrounding counties and the burden is more than people are willing to bear.
The Legislature took no action on Ungermann's plea.
In other matters:
* Legislature Chairman Curtis Crandall, R-Caneadea, said the county will observe its bicentennial birthday April 7 with cake on the courthouse steps at 11:30 a.m. and a ringing of the bicentennial bell. The county was formed April 7, 1806, by an act of the State Legislature.
* The Legislature created a full-time registered nurse's job for the Sheriff's Department. The job will be filled this summer, Sheriff Randal Belmont said.
Belmont added that the post is necessary to meet State Corrections Commission staffing requirements for the new jail. Two registered nurses now will be on staff, covering the two shifts between dawn and midnight.