Chester County announces layoffs of 30 employees

County hopes to save $2 million; declining tax revenue, cuts in state aid force slashing

Updated: adds additional comment, 8 p.m. EDT

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

WEST CHESTER — Chester County announced Wednesday that it would lay off some 30 county employees, what county officials referred to as a “streamlining” of county services.

The cuts come in three departments, Facilities & Parks, Human Services and Emergency Services and is expected to save the county some $2 million from its more than $400 million annual budget.

As is the case with local municipalities and school districts, Chester County is facing lower real estate tax revenues due to lower property sales and reassessments which have reduced the net value of the county’s real estate tax base. Additionally, state and federal funding has been cut, adding to the shortfall. County officials have already warned that a tax increase is likely coming in 2013.

Last month, municipal officials reacted largely negatively to a proposed $5.20 per person emergency services fee to be levied on each municipality. While talks between the county and representatives continue to work reach some sort of accommodation, it’s unclear at this time what the fiscal impact will be in the coming budget year.

According to a statement issued by the county Wednesday, “this move is a result of continuing efforts to review, reorganize, streamline and improve efficiencies in the delivery of services, particularly those services impacted by cuts in the 2012/2013 State budget and significant reductions in the limited 9-1-1 reimbursement money received by the Department of Emergency Services.”

Commissioner Ryan Costello said he was mindful of the impact of layoffs on the employees, but under the current fiscal circumstances he said he felt it was a necessary move.

“After fully evaluating the delivery of services and in close consultation with the respective department heads, we made the difficult but, I feel, necessary decision to implement reorganizational changes that will produce annual savings of 2 million dollars,” Costello said. “I’m very sensitive to the staff reductions relating to the particular individuals, but the continued fiscal challenges require tough decisions. It is important to note that the core essential functions of each of these departments will not be compromised.”

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said she was not happy about the situation, either, but the county had little in the way of options.

“I don’t like to lay people off,” Cozzone said.  “The county must look at a whole host of ways to reduce costs and create efficiencies, and the merging of Facilities and Parks, the restructuring of administration in Human Services, combined with the financial ‘hits’ from the Commonwealth meant that some very tough decisions had to be made.  Restructuring and streamlining is never an easy decision, and certainly not one that I have made lightly.”

The layoffs break down as follows:

Seven employees in the county Facilities & Parks department, made possible officials say because of the merger of the two departments in 2010. County officials say it will save $590,000 with the cuts.

10 employees will be cut in Emergency Services — a department hard hit by cuts in state funding, cut of $665,000 from the budget.

13 employees will be cut from the Human Services — seven in the Department of Aging, two in the Department of Mental Health/Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, three in the Department of Children Youth & Families and one that covers the Department of Human Services and Children Youth & Families).  Meanwhile, two positions in the Department of Mental Health/Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities will move from full time to part time. These cuts represent the biggest cut of the three — a total of $790,000.

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