The LuLac Edition #672, Dec. 20th, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: MARYANNE PETRILLA, LUZERNE COUNTY COMMISSIONER CHAIR AND BILL KELLY, PRESIDENT OF WVIA TV/FM.
It seems like the Luzerne County Commissioners are finally getting some help in their legal battle against the Luzerne County Judges. News came that the Luzerne County commissioners are about to get some moral support in the legal battle to force the courts to reduce staff. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania will intervene in the action or submit a legal brief supporting the commissioners’ position. The CCAP, represents commissioners of all 67 counties in the state. The legal battle is under way because county Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Steve Urban passed a 2009 budget that cut spending on full-time employee salaries in court branches by $1.7 million. Court branches received $15.6 million for salaries in 2008, compared to $13.9 million allocated in 2009, according to a review of both budgets. Petrilla and Urban proposed 34 layoffs and the elimination of 21 retiree-vacated positions in court departments. Both Urban and Petrilla said the courts could choose their own path in determining who to terminate. In other words, they were taking their hands out of the pot and just asking the Courts do simply do their job. The County Commissioners Association has been pushing a plan that will put all judicial employees under state wide financing since Commissioners have to fund the court system through property tax revenue. And as typical in Pennsylvania, there are 67 sets of County Commissioner boards with 67 different set of rules and standards.
To date, the state has only funded the salaries of judges, district justices, court administrators and their immediate deputies. The association is aiming to switch all court-related employees to state employees, limiting the counties’ responsibilities to things like providing security and infrastructure. With the involvement of the CCAP, you can be sure this pitched legal battle will be watched carefully statewide. In the meantime, Luzerne County is held hostage by the courts. Ironic, huh?
This week there was an interesting letter from a Times Leader reader on the subject of WVIA TV/FM's budget cuts and how that organization was dealing with them. Here it is: It’s refreshing to know that there is still some integrity left in this country. Although I’m sure it was painful for Bill Kelly, president and CEO of WVIA Public Media, to have to lay off workers and cut some local programming, at least he and the senior vice presidents had the grace to take salary cuts. Even though it probably won’t change WVIA’s financial picture that much, it’s more than the CEOs of automobile companies and the presidents of failing banks did. Public Broadscasting in this area has been a rich blessing with managers like Kelly and others before him who foresaw budget problems. This is not the first belt tightening by WVIA nor it will be the last. But unlike the banks and others with their hands out, Public Broadcasting has always had a plan of action, a workbook if you will when it comes before the government for funding. The management of WVIA did not file a lawsuit or ask for a bailout, even from their own members, they did what they were responsible for and did it. Maybe we can load a few board members of WVIA in a Suburban and let them show some row officers how to make intelligent but painful cuts in a budget.
BY THE WAY.....
Hughestown Borough passed their annual budget for 2009 the other day. They layed off a secretary. So far, no one is filing a lawsuit. Another example of responsible government in tough times.