It was disappointing to read in Thursday’s Herald that Mercer County commissioners’ plan to save money was rejected by county-employee unions.

Commissioners had proposed that employees drop one day from every two-week pay period to help save money. But all three unions voted overwhelmingly against the plan.

That is a direct slap in the face to taxpayers of Mercer County who have been providing paychecks for these employees, including many taxpayers who have taken pay cuts. Many county residents have experienced the same one-unpaid-day-off-per-pay situation in their jobs.

At a time when workers throughout the country in private business and government have given back to help their employers battle through the recession, county employees have refused to do the same.

At a time when local unemployment has soared, these county employees expect out-of-work citizens to continue to fund their employment without any remorse.

However, on a good note, the employees said they are receptive to reducing some personnel costs and that they also will suggest ways to save money.

While we can appreciate the effort, will it be enough to offset a projected $800,000 of unbudgeted expenses? Commissioners say that about half of that will be to cover Children and Youth Services money that the state has cut.

But Children and Youth expenses are an area that these employees may very well question. At a commissioners’ meeting earlier this year, a representative of a local juvenile-detention facility claimed the county could have saved about one-quarter million dollars last year by using their services rather than a more expensive service that the county has favored.

That should lead taxpayers to wonder if there are also other areas where the county isn’t using the lowest bidder. And why? Where could other changes be made that would allow employees to maintain their current pay rates?

We can’t help but wonder if the union votes would have been different if commissioners and row officers had first made some personal sacrifices.

The employees themselves may know best where our tax money is being wasted or misdirected.

If that’s the case, then county employees have a right to ask why they should take losses in pay when other cost savings are being ignored. And if they can come up with the plan to save the $800,000, they should be rewarded with no pay reductions.

But after meeting with employees and exploring their cost-saving ideas, if the needed savings can’t be reached, the commissioners have to take a hard line. If the employees still refuse the unpaid-day off plan, they need to lay off a sufficient number of employees to make up the difference.

The commissioners work for the taxpayers and it is their duty to make decisions that are in the best interest of those citizens. A tax increase in these dire times is unacceptable.

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