Immediate Release

 For Information Contact: 

Tuesday, May 28, 2020

David C. Andrews
Community Services Coordinator

Eannace: County Freezes Hiring
Due to Soaring Medicaid Costs

Oneida County Executive Ralph J. Eannace, Jr., today announced that he has imposed a hiring freeze on County Government in response to soaring costs of Medicaid.

"The Medicaid costs that are now being mandated upon us are projected to exceed our Medicaid budget by about $4.5 million to $5 million," Eannace said. "Without action on
our part to respond, we could face a large budget deficit that would defeat all the work we have already done to reduce costs this year and keep our 2003 tax increase as small as possible."

Eannace noted that a 10-member Financial Response and Review Committee he convened in December of 2001 has set a goal of achieving $5 million in savings over two years. The plan sets
savings goals for each quarter. Eannace said, "County Government is on track to achieve its goal of $500,000 in savings by the end of June, which is our second milepost in our plan."

The savings are achieved through a line-by-line analysis of spending as well as a broader look at areas for larger savings. So far this quarter, which ends June 30th, the Committee has identified
almost 200 accounts from which savings have been made. Larger savings will be realized by eliminating outside leases by moving to county-owned facilities, reducing or delaying purchases of
equipment and revised policies for areas such as purchasing and travel. The Committee is also reviewing possible revenue sources that can increase county revenue without impacting taxpayers.

"The Committee and our Department Heads have done a commendable job of reducing non-mandated spending," Eannace said. "We knew going into to 2002 that we needed extraordinary
efforts to reduce costs, and we are on the road to achieving that goal. Through the efforts of the committee, increases in our jail revenue, and sales tax revenue increases, we are on target to
achieving the savings we knew we needed. "

However, Eannace said, "Medicaid costs are now up 17 percent over 2001, far above our 2002 budget projections."

Eannace noted that delays in filling job vacancies that were part of the county’s cost-containment plan are projected to save substantial dollars this year. Freezing hiring through the end of the
year, he said, will vastly increase those savings. As of today, there were 84 vacant, funded positions, many of which had been left vacant from the start of the year.

Eannace said the county will fill positions when failure to fill a position would cause proven harm to operations or when filling the position has no negative impact on the county budget (for example,
because the position in question is funded through a grant).

"We will continue to provide all essential services to the people of Oneida County and continue our economic development efforts that are critical to the long-term future of our region,"
Eannace said.

Eannace said Oneida County will also be working with federal representatives to obtain assistance in managing Medicaid cost increases. Unlike most states, New York counties assume a
25 percent share for Medicaid costs. Eannace said that when he became County Executive in 1997, Medicaid costs amounted to about 54.5 percent of the tax levy. The projected 2002
Medicaid total of $36.5 million amounts to almost 80 percent of the tax levy.

Eannace said the hiring freeze is part of months of efforts to contain costs.

"When the current budget was being developed a year ago, we were cutting back on department head requests. By taking a long-term approach to reducing costs, we have been able to
avert any layoffs and also maintain essential services to county residents. Imposing a hiring freeze now adds to our efforts to save money across the board and keep our potential 2003 tax
increase as small as possible."

Eannace estimated that without the series of pro-active steps, county residents could have faced a 2003 tax increase of as high as 20 percent.

"A huge tax increase would be devastating to the revival we had begun and hope to continue when our national economy recovers from its slump," Eannace said. "Continued budget oversight
and actions to reduce our spending are essential for the future of our county."

"Oneida County has a proven track record of fiscal integrity and efficiency and a plan in place that is already putting money aside for next year’s budget," Eannace said. "Because Oneida County
began this difficult time in good fiscal condition and with a minimal spending increase, we do not need to push the panic button. Through our deliberate but disciplined approach to achieving
these reductions, I am confident we can achieve our goal."