KINGSTON – The Ulster County Legislature approved a voluntary separation program to be offered to employees to help offset financial shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


Meanwhile, Comptroller March Gallagher recommended that County Executive Patrick Ryan and the lawmakers consider some short-term layoffs.


Gallagher has estimated that sales tax and state aid revenue shortfalls could total more than $34 million this year.


All 23 legislators were present Tuesday night, and they voted unanimously for the separation program.


Personnel director Sheree Cross will send letters to employees deemed eligible for the program, and those employees must apply in writing by Aug. 3.


Ryan would make the final determination on all applications, based on the impact of losing each employee on the county’s operation and its ability to continue providing essential services to the public, and whether the job would need to be backfilled with someone else.


Cross will send a list of all employees who opt to participate in the plan, and which positions must be backfilled, to the Legislature clerk by Sept. 21.


Employees whose applications are approved must leave their county jobs by March 31, 2021.


No estimate of how much might be saved was aired at the meeting,


As for layoffs, Gallagher said no elected official wants to call for such a thing, but it would be a dereliction of duty not to identify the potential savings of such a step.


In a memorandum to county officials, Gallagher said more than $1.2 million in salary has been paid for hours for which employees performed no work due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pause order, which limits staffing density to 50 percent to allow room for social distancing.


Gallagher estimated between $1.5 million and $3 million could be saved by laying off certain employees between now and July 31.


mrandall@th-record.com