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November 30, 2010 - 2:23pm

Genesee Justice staff offers to take pay cut; advisory council narrows cost savings on closure

posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, Genesee Justice.

After some number crunching yesterday, members of the Criminal Justice Advisory Council concluded that eliminating Genesee Justice will save the county less than $100,000.

Most of Genesee Justice's budget is covered by state and federal grants, but in recent years the county's portion of the operations expense has climbed to $237,000.

To help come up with expense savings to protect Genesee Justice, according to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman -- who's a member of CJAC -- $80,000 in possible cuts have been identified by the Sheriff's Office and Genesee Justice.

That includes a voluntary 6-percent pay cut from the Genesee Justice staff.

"We thought we made a good case (for Genesee Justice at the budget hearing)," Friedman said. "We'd still like to believe (its elimination) is not going to happen."

Thirty years ago, the concepts that built Genesee Justice -- restorative justice and offender accountability -- were novel and not universally embraced by the law enforcement and thenlegal community. Now local criminal justice experts are solidly behind saving Genesee Justice.

"As we've said, this would be like a 30-year step back in history," Friedman said.

He said CJAC members are waiting for the release, sometime today or tomorrow, of County Manager Jay Gsell's revised budget proposal to see just what the cost differential will be.

The costs of moving Genesee Justice functions to probation go beyond just adding three more staff members to the Probation Department, though solid numbers are not immediately available.

Also, it's completely unclear, Friedman said, whether the grants now used to help fund Genesee Justice will follow the programs to probation.

"There were a lot of people at the meeting (Monday)," Friedman said. "Everybody reiterated what they said at the hearing -- that this is a bad idea."

The Legislature will be in conference on the proposed budget at the Old Courthouse at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Bea McManis
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"Also, it's completely unclear, Friedman said, whether the grants now used to help fund Genesee Justice will follow the programs to probation." I have a feeling that our County Manager just assumed that the money brought in by Genesee Justice, in the form of grants, would continue to go to the probation dept. It would be 'found money'. Wouldn't it make sense that the probation dept. would be required to apply for these grants? Would they even qualify?
Neil Gagne
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I think the fact that the employees of Genesee Justice are willing to take 6% pay cuts (it's actually THEIR idea; not something imposed from the outside)speaks volumes not only for the character of those involved in running the program, but also for the strong belief they have in the work they are doing, and want to continue to do to benefit the Genesee County community. When was the last time you heard of government employees being willing to take any kind of paycut, let alone suggesting them themselves? These folks are clearly dedicated to what they do. They deserve all our support!
Bryant Tyson
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I would take a 6% cut in pay over a 100% anyday. Don't get me wrong I would like to see the program survive.
Stephanie Armstrong
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Does anyone know where/when the vote is?
Dave Olsen
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Bea, if our county manager didn't know whether or not those grants would carry over to the probation dept. then I say he should be fired for incompetence, today. The county manager has no business assuming anything. That's a pretty basic "what if", if you ask me. I'm sure he did his due diligence. I agree Mr. Gagne, that is a great gesture on their part, what about all the others who want to keep this program. Would the DA, Sheriff, Judges all take some kind of pay cut to contribute, would the public defender take a lower fee? That's always the problem with budget time, everyone wants certain programs left in, noone is usually willing to concede something. It seems that Genesee Justice does a lot of good for this county, I really only know what I've read here I personally have no experience with the criminal justice system and probably won't. I'm sure the employees there are every bit as dedicated as you say, I hope it can be saved. I believe it is a good thing. I think this will stay, but we'll hear about it when something else is going to get the axe or else taxes are going up, this is a shot across the bow. Mark my words.
Kyle Couchman
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I dont know though Dave the county manager seems to think that with the fiscal picture and financial crisis that taxes wont be raised. Although we'd all like to see this not happen it just doesn't seem in touch with reality. I mean it just seems politically motivated to say such things. And this is the time these reps really need to reach out to their constituents and find out what they really want. I mean you cut programs that really are necessary (or people feel strongly that they are) then what have you accomplished? Just saying is all.
Daniel Jones
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I propose that we cut thousands of dollars of costs by eliminating the unnecessary county legislature and going to a board of supervisors format. There is no need for an extra layer of representatives in a county our size, our elected Town Supervisors/City Council President in Batavia know their communities well enough to represent them on their own.
Howard B. Owens
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Kyle, it's my understanding that the county manager was given a mandate from the legislature to produce a balanced budget without raising taxes, no matter what.
John Roach
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Kyle, Next year is an election year for the County Legislators. I don't think they want to run for office on having raised taxes. And while GJ has a lot going for it, I bet the vast majority of people in the County have had no contact with it, so don't care that much. If the 6% pay cut comes up with enough money, I hope they survive. If not, they might have to drop some services to match income. But to make up between $5 to $7 million dollars, with no tax increase, there has to be cuts, no way around it. I think it would be nice if the legislators take no pay raise next year. And for being less than a part time employee, drop their tax payer paid health care program
Gary Spencer
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A voluntary 6% pay cut? Our legislators (at county and state levels as well as US senators and congress could learn a lot from these folks!!
Chris Charvella
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John, they don't want to run for office having destroyed a nationally acclaimed program either. I'd call them inept, out of touch, drooling ideologues incapable of original thought but I'd be understating myself. There used to be a place where I could write the truth about things like this without the threat of retribution...
Chris Charvella
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...and let's be honest, if they're thinking about how their votes affect their next election then they don't deserve to be there in the first place.
Kyle Couchman
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LOL Thanks Chris...couldnt have said it better. Your points hit it right on the nose with how I feel. I have to share an email with everyone that I got from a church member. I like the redneck jokes, even though some get mean but these hit me in the heart.... Here it is: We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half dozen or so rednecks to back me up. Tire irons, squirrel guns and grit -- that's what rednecks are made of. I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Y'all know who ya are You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, 'One nation, under God..' You might be a redneck if: You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places. You might be a redneck if: You still say ' Christmas' instead of 'Winter Festival.' You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays. You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem You might be a redneck if: You treat our armed forces veterans with great respect, and always have. You might be a redneck if: You've never burned an American flag, nor intend to. You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening. You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and raised your kids to do the same. You might be a redneck if: You'd give your last dollar to a friend. God Bless the USA ! Merry Christmas everyone
John Roach
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Chris, Point well taken and I hope the voluntary 6% pay cut makes the difference. But except for Criminal Justice professionals and some others, like on this site, I don't find that many people who care. A number of people I spoke to said when they saw the term "Genesee Justice" mentioned in the paper related to soemthing, they thought it was the police. I guess that is the penalty of being a low profile agency. But, where do you make up $5-$7 million dollars? You ran for the legislature, what would you have recommended
Peter O'Brien
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My City Council doesn't represent me but my county legislator does. So tell me again why I should be with you on this?
Bea McManis
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I suggest: 1. A 6% decrease in non-union salaries across the board. From the top down. 2. Drop medical insurance for part time employees (including legislators). 3. Negotiate a one year freeze in salary for union employees. 4. Raise the sales tax 1% 5. Eliminate one administrative position from each department. Will that make up the deficit? I doubt it, but it would be a start.
Howard B. Owens
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Remember this commercial? I can't get it out of my head recently.
John Roach
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Why not a 6% cut for union workers also (through contract negotiations next time)? Why single out just non union workers? Shouldn't everyone be treated the same? That being said, if the legislators are going to lay anyone off, they should also take a pay cut. Personally, I don't consider them "workers", they are the management.
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on December 1, 2010 - 8:23am Remember this commercial? I can't get it out of my head recently. Exactly, Howard. You can cut and cut, but eventually you've cut to the point where the county will no longer function. Then what?
Chris Charvella
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I'm glad you asked John. First, I'd be honest with the people of Genesee County about why we're short on money. It's the economy stupid. Sales tax revenue is way down due to a long recession. That recession is ending (slowly)and we need to weather the storm while continuing to do what's best for Genesee County. Then I'd ask for a brief closed session with my fellow legislators. I'd express to them that the job is about doing what's right for the county, not their re-election campaigns. Now it's time to do some work. I'd accept, sort of, the 6% salary cut from the workers at Genesee Justice, but I'd recommend that it be done on a sliding scale with a 3% minimum and 10% cap. For example, a worker with a 30K salary takes a 3% cut, 50K takes 5%, 100k takes 10%. You get the point. Then I'd go to all the departments that are related in some way to Genesee Justice and that want very badly to keep it. I'd ask them to look very hard at their budgets, find anything they don't really need or could live without for one more year and cut it out. Maybe it's a staff raise, maybe it's a couple new computers or a new vehicle. I'd ask all of the law enforcement department heads from the Sheriff to the DA to the judges to consider themselves part of a team and not just heads of single county departments. They know what a boon Genesee Justice is for the county and they were willing to stick their necks out and defend it publicly (which I commend them for.) Now it's time for them to do their part to keep the program that helps them do their jobs. After all of that was over I'd remind everyone that we never should have had to go through this process because Genesee Justice is a nationally acclaimed program that actually saves the county money and increases our quality of life. Then I'd have lunch.
Peter O'Brien
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Why are union members exempt from a pay decrease Bea? Why should I have to pay 1% more on most everything I buy so that a program that doesn't affect me can live on? Do that I and will do all my shopping out of county especially since I make a trip out almost daily. Also your local retailers will be hurt more because people will need the savings "Evil" Walmart provides since their spending budgets just decreased.
C. M. Barons
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John Roach
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Chris, I think most people no why the County is in the fix it's in. Yes, it's the economy, but it is also unfunded mandates such as medicaid. That eats up a big portion of the budget, as you know well. The sliding scale is, to me, unfair. No paid employee should be treated any different from the other. I agree 100% with you that it would be nice if all the other criminal justice agencies could kick in some money, but that would also be admitting they had not cut to the bone already. But GJ is only a small part of the budget. They have to come up with $5-$7 million dollars. So even if you kept GJ, what do you cut, where do you save? Now if they raise taxes this year, and since 8 out of 9 legislators are Republican, could you guess no Democrat running against them would use the tax increase as a campaign issue?
Howard B. Owens
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Chris, some day you may very well serve in an elected body and by then, I hope you know that this "Then I'd ask for a brief closed session with my fellow legislators. I'd express to them that the job is about doing what's right for the county, not their re-election campaigns." Violates the open meeting law.
Chris Charvella
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Sometimes, to do what's right, you have to raise taxes. Doing the right thing isn't something to be ashamed of. Especially if the small tax increase allowed us to continue one of the best law enforcement programs in the country. If a Democratic opponent started beating on the tax issue, I would expect the Republican incumbent to explain why it was necessary and then to explain that keeping Genesee Justice will help us avoid larger costs down the road. Would you rather have a small increase now or a huge one in three years. Of course I don't think members of the legislature engage in that little activity known as foresight. That's too much effort for them.
Chris Charvella
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Howard, when I said closed session, I meant a 'Come to Jesus' chat right before the budget hearing, not an official meeting of the legislative body.
Kyle Couchman
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Peter, how does this program not effect you? Without it we would probably due to crowding have alot of offenders on the streets for alot longer. And in my experience a criminal who is out of incarceration but looking at extended jail time is victim to a disease called "I dont give a F" They become much reckless and dangerous. Less supervison emboldens them even more.... Its a quality of life issue which means it does effect you, me and the city and county as a whole. I'm glad you do your part to help support the county by shopping ouside of it, guess thats your contribution to your neighborhood. Maybe Bea if we raise sales tax AND Property tax Peter will leave the county all together as he doesn't like it here already.
Howard B. Owens
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Chris, it's a laudable idea, but still not allowed under the open meeting law. Legislatures can't discuss government business in a quorum (or in a serial meeting) without proper public notice and public attendance (except where exceptions exist, such as personnel matters, pending litigation, etc.)
Kyle Couchman
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LOL Ya Know Chris, maybe Howard has a point. If you did the little "Come To Jesus" talk behind closed doors it might be effective but doing it in a public meeting gets it written in the minutes AND shows the public that they were reminded of this common sense item before action was taken. Gives no wiggle room for later comments like "well we didnt know" or similar such bs.
Chris Charvella
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Then the entire legislature is breaking the law every time they shake hands and hang out a few minutes before the meeting. You're taking things a little too literally today. My chat isn't about government business, it's about responsibility. Telling fellow legislators that they should put their re-election campaigns on the back burner in favor of good government for five damn minutes doesn't violate the open meetings law. Maybe Kyle's right though. Giving them all the business on the record would be more fun, but I think it would also be less productive.
Kyle Couchman
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LOL Chris with the direction its current going in could it get less productive?!?
Chris Charvella
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Probably not Kyle.
Chris Charvella
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By the way, while we're at it, I'd pay good money to know who the first person in the Genesee County government was to say: 'Hey, let's get rid of Genesee Justice, that'll save some money.'
JoAnne Rock
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LOL Chris. I'd chip in with you for that!
Dave Olsen
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Now, granted I'm just a dumb hick with an internet connection. I don't know all the details of a government budget process, but according to the county's budget page; 2010 expenditures or appropriations were expected to be $ 140,271,424.00. I'm sure the actual amount is different. I don't think you can touch workman's comp. So that leaves roughly 138 million. 5% of 138 million = 6.9 million. Problem solved, everyone gets 5% less this year. That type of thinking was presented by C.M. Barons in regards to the state budget, and Crazy Carl Paladino too, who carried Gen. County, so it must be what the people want to see. Sorry, C.M. you probably don't want me tying you up with him, no offense. It's good simple, basic thinking. We pay the county manager, his assistants and all other dept administration people pretty darn well, so they should handle the details. http://www.co.genesee.ny.us/dpt/countymanager/budgetsummary.html
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, the county has control of not even 20 percent of that $140m. The rest is mandated services.
Dave Olsen
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So, what happens if the County Legislature says, we're only going to provide 95% of the mandated services?
Peter O'Brien
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It doesn't affect me because I am not an offender or a victim. My understanding is that these are small crimes like DWI that tend to not affect "hardened criminals" that would get that attitude. And I don't do my shopping out of town right now, as a matter of fact I bring my pay check here from Monroe county. But I will make my purchases in Monroe if its going to be cheaper.
Peter O'Brien
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Dave, Law suits. And therefore increased spending.

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