Layoffs cost Rock Island County more than 200 years of experience

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Rock Island County has already lost more than 200 years of experience due to layoffs this year, and employees say the cuts could come at a steep cost.

The bulk of those years come from the Rock Island County Health Department, which plans to lay off 13 employees on June 30, 2016, due to the state budget crisis. Together, those employees have roughly 180 years of experience.

"We know what to expect, and we're kinda able to adjust because we've done it before," said Kathleen Flynn, a 14-year veteran of the department who will be losing her job this month.

During a recent disaster preparedness drill, public health administrator Nita Ludwig reflected on the impact that loss would have during a real-life emergency.

"We really need our trained public health staff. Those are the experts and the skilled people that we really count on in things like this. So, to lose people at this time, and if something like this were to happen, it is really detrimental. Really detrimental," said Ludwig.

The health department isn't the only government unit facing cuts, though. In March, the Rock Island County Board voted to lay off four employees, including the HR Director, a building inspector, an HR administrative assistant, and a zoning administrative assistant. The move is expected to save taxpayers more than $1,056,000 over a five-year period, but it also represents a loss of 37.5 years of experience.

"More people are going to have to step up and take on more responsibilities, really... just kind of absorb the responsibilities of other positions that are getting let go," said Andrew Forbes, who is being laid off from the health department after three years.

Forbes says the cuts will limit the county's response to a disaster, both in scope and speed.

"It's quite frustrating to see what I consider politics come into play when people's jobs are being lost and when public safety is being put at risk, because two sides of the aisle can't come together on some issues down in Springfield," said Forbes.

Rock Island County is still in the process of planning its budget for next year, but County Administrator Dave Ross has warned that massive layoffs will be needed if a tax hike is not approved.

Ross plans to schedule a series of town hall meetings in July to allow the public to weigh in and answer questions.

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