Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton met with managers Friday morning to brief them on the remaining budget deficit and said meetings with union leaders will start next week.
Lawton recently told County Council that personnel cuts will be necessary to erase the remaining $875,000 projected year-end deficit, and he delivered the directive to managers Friday.
He said he has the authority and will to force staff reductions on his own but wants to give unions the chance to come up with alternatives.
‚??The county manager has only one tool to use unilaterally in controlling personnel costs,‚?Ě Lawton said, referring to layoffs. ‚??Working together, labor and management have a much wider range of choices.‚?Ě
Lawton said he‚??s ‚??very encouraged‚?Ě by public statements from several county union leaders about their willingness to discuss and consider layoff alternatives.
‚??It‚??s clear that they understand the reality of the county‚??s fiscal condition. I am approaching these meetings in good faith believing that all parties have the county‚??s best interest at heart,‚?Ě Lawton said.
Lawton told council he will eliminate the deficit before Dec. 31 ‚??in a manner which is sustainable and reproducible‚?Ě for 2013.
He will present a third-quarter report and proposed 2013 budget to council by Oct. 15.
Lawton also announced special personnel assignments during Friday‚??s department head meeting.
He asked county Prothonotary Carolee Medico Olenginski to examine document handling in all offices and come up with recommendations to reduce paper and provide more information to the public using technology.
Lawton said he chose Medico Olenginski for the task because she successfully computerized her office records and provided online access and document filing capability for the public and attorneys.
County Interim Clerk of Courts Tom Pizano has come up with a plan to increase efficiency in the criminal records division. Deputy Prothonotary Art Bobbouine will help implement that plan and handle day-to-day operations in clerk of courts because Pizano will be busy overseeing the election bureau until a new election director is hired by a mid-October target date, Lawton said.
Lawton said Medico Olenginski‚??s project is important because the county can‚??t invest in technological improvements without assessing the way information is received, stored and disseminated.
He compared it to someone getting rid of unnecessary belongings and organizing during a move.
‚??Information and documents are the central nervous system of the county,‚?Ě Lawton said. ‚??Carolee can make a mark in bringing us into the next century.‚?Ě
He praised the three employees for taking on additional duties. The civil and criminal record offices are in the same division under the home rule charter.