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Courthouse layoffs on hold

  • Randolph County Courthouse

    Randolph County Courthouse
    Herald Tribune File Photo

  • Randolph County Board Chairman Ronnie White.

    Randolph County Board Chairman Ronnie White.

By Pete Spitler
Posted on 12/22/2016, 3:42 PM

The holidays may be a little brighter for four Randolph County Courthouse employees affected by the recent layoff notices.

Randolph County Board Chairman Ronnie White told the Herald Tribune on Wednesday that reinstatement notices were sent to two of the employees affected, while layoffs for the other two are on hold for now.

"We have accepted two and a half retirements," White said. "One of them is going part-time until they retire in 2018.

"Since we have received these retirements, and there"s another one pending, we have given two reinstatement letters back, but the other two employees are still pending."

The county board has accepted the retirements of Sheriff"s Deputy Janice Barbour and Barb Weber, who worked out of the coroner"s office. The retiring employees will not be replaced.

During its Dec. 16 meeting, the board also approved a transition agreement with Jan Gross out of the county assessor"s office. Gross will transition from full-time to part-time employment with the county, with retirement expected in 2018.

The layoffs are as a result of the failed Public Safety Tax (PST) referendum, which was voted down by more than 5,200 votes in the Nov. 8 general election.

"Our sales tax revenues are still up a little bit," White said. "We"re hoping that continues and we"ve taken several positions to part-time that will go into effect Jan. 1.

"We"re trying to reduce hours where we can and we"re also working with animal control to see what we can do there."

The commissioners have held several closed-door meetings with various unions regarding the layoffs. White said the main one the commissioners are working with is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

"It"s a tough situation for all of us, but all sides are working together," White said. "I think they understand our financial position and are trying to help out where possible."

White noted that the commissioners had a cost study performed in the county clerk"s office and are looking at one for the sheriff"s office.

"We"ve probably got three full pages of things to look at for cost savings," he said. "We will be meeting to increase fees, which many haven"t been done in 15 years."

White was asked about the impact of the loss of the Scholastic Clay Target Program"s Nationals to the area. The SCTP announced in a Dec. 16 news release that it was staying at the Cardinal Shooting Center in Marengo, Ohio, on a three-year deal.

The Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, the public charity responsible for all aspects of SCTP, had a year left on its contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to conduct the SCTP Nationals at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, but was given a choice by the IDNR to terminate, continue or revise that deal.

SCTP chose the "terminate" option, leaving the WSRC without one of its premiere shooting events.

White said hotel/motel tax receipts - which can be used as an indicator of tourism in the county - dropped by more than $25,700 in 2016.

Hotel/motel tax receipts were $143,660.24 in 2014 and rose to $159,624.10 in 2015 - the last year the SCTP Nationals were conducted at the WSRC.

The "uncertified" estimate for 2016 is $133,890.79.

"We tentatively attribute the drop to losing the SCTP and the indecisiveness of what was going to happen with the shooting complex," White said. "That caused public skepticism, resulting in less business and fewer tax numbers."

Moving forward, White said the commissioners are still negotiating some of the employment contracts.

"There"s one fairly sure retirement that is still pending," he said. "That"s going to be a factor."

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