Officials ask for help with staffing challenges

Two Montgomery County officials have recently gone on record to say they have difficulty retaining employees because salaries are higher elsewhere. They’ve also brought up other staffing challenges for which they’ve asked for help with from the County Legislature.

Social Services Commissioner Michael McMahon came before the legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday to ask for funding for an additional caseworker position. He said staff turnover was a big problem, because people leave for better-paying jobs once they are trained.

“Our senior staff person at Child Protective Services has been here two years,” he said. “The state recommends a caseload of 12 [families]; our average caseload is 32.”

The added position would increase the county’s budget by $60,000, including salary and benefits, but the federal government would reimburse the county for 50 percent of the cost and the state would pay another 17 percent, McMahon said.

At last week’s meeting of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, Sheriff Michael Amato said he has lost five deputies recently, and although he has hired four new people, they still must undergo further training before they can assume full responsibility.

“When a police officer leaves one agency to go to another, the law says the new agency must reimburse the previous agency for the cost of training that individual,” Amato said.

For instance, when one newly-trained deputy left to join the Schenectady Police Department, the county billed that department for more than $17,000. It took four months to get that money, Amato said.

Another deputy left to join the Schenectady Police Department, and Amato has heard nothing from that agency in a month, he said.

“We are the training ground, and nobody understands that,” he said.

Amato was not asking for another position, but rather asking the legislators if they would approve adding an interest payment to the bill for training.

“We should be able to tack a percentage onto that bill,” Amato said. “The Board of Supervisors didn’t want to do it, and I’m asking you if you have an interest in that.”

Both requests will now go before the full Legislature for action at its meeting June 23.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.