Adding half-time chief deputy medical examiner part of requests
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Given the anticipated financial restraints for putting together the 2018 Oneida County budget, county Labor Relations and Employee Services Committee chairman Ted Cushing has called on department heads wanting to add staff next year to find the money to do so in their current budget levels.
“Find the money in your department budget by eliminating a program or creating some efficiency,” Cushing said at Wednesday’s committee meeting.
In addition to being able to raise the levy limit by only $98,000 to fund the budget next year, Cushing said the county also faces having to pay out $375,000 for Family Care and has a $1 million shortfall at the Human Service Center because of out-of-county placements.
“I don’t know where we’re going to find the money for these positions, unless we start looking at the efficiency study and cutting programs,” he said. “Last year the budget was a breeze. This year it’s going to be brutal, I’m afraid.”
Committee member Billy Fried pointed out that the committee’s recommendations for staffing next year may or may not end up receiving final approval, given how much money is available as the Administration Committee puts together the 2018 budget.
“I don’t want to deny something because we’ve got too much of a challenge,” Fried said. “I’d wait to see what that challenge is and if we don’t have the money at that point, say, ‘Just can’t afford to add that this year.’”
Among the requested staffing additions for next year is adding a half-time chief deputy medical examiner. County medical examiner Larry Mathein appeared before the LRES Committee to request a half-time employee who could act in his place when he is not available, such as for signing a death certificate.
“As it has become more and more evident that the workload that is being required of the medical examiners’ offices and the coroners’ officers across the state is increasing, due to a whole host of different reasons, one person cannot do this job alone,” Mathein said. “We have always in this county relied on part-time or almost volunteer investigators, or deputy medical examiners, to fill in and take the bulwark of the time when the medical examiner is not available.”
Given the current economic situation, Mathein said it “virtually impossible to get anybody to want to do this job and put the time commitments in and be proficient enough at it that they’re comfortable with it.”
For the past five-plus years, Mathein said on-call individuals who receive per diem and respond to a call have gotten paid for handling an incident.
“Where we’ve run into more and more problems is fiscally it’s not worth anybody’s while to do this on a volunteer-type basis,” he said. “We’ve have them on call for 12 hours. We pay them $20 to cover the 12-hour call period, and hopefully during that 12-hour call period, for their sake, they have to go out on a call, because that’s the way they’re going to end up making some dollars.”
Because the deputy medical investigators work full-time jobs, Mathein said it is difficult to get people to take a shift when they could make more money on a full-time job.
“Routinely, I am covering 12-hour shifts 30-35 times a month,” he said. “That’s a lot of time…. There’s no time off. I can’t leave it in somebody else’s hands. If I want to go out of town, death certificates can’t get signed, certain other things cannot get done that the medical examiner would do.”
Mathein said he is seeking someone “that will be a mini-me.”
LRES Committee members favored adding a half-time deputy medical examiner effective July 1, 2018. According to the fiscal impact statement for the position, the cost for the final six months of next year would range from $18,464 to $20,251, depending on the step level of the person hired, and be paid for by the tax levy.