The Albany County Commissioners approved a severance pay package for county employees who are being laid off due to budget constraints during their meeting Tuesday, April 2.

Albany County Human Resources Coordinator Christina Snowberger presented the severance package to the commissioners, saying due to financial difficulties created by the downturn in the energy sector, the county was forced to lay off employees.

The severance package will allow the county to pay employees who have been serving for a year or less to receive one months’ salary and one month of the COBRA health insurance provided to employees. County employees serving for one to five years will receive two months of severance pay and 2 months of the COBRA insurance and employees who have worked with the county for more than five years will receive three months’ salary and three months of health insurance.

Snowberger said the 10 county employees slated to be laid off were notified on April 26th of the county’s decision. She said the individuals selected for the layoffs came from all but two county departments and that the decisions were made based on issues such as duplication of services.

“It wasn’t easy,” Snowberger said.

Snowberger said four separate employees had opted to take an early retirement package, bringing the total number of employees leaving the county to 14.

Commissioner Heber Richardson said the uncertainty of the next fiscal year was why the county was laying off employees and creating a severance package now rather than later.

“We know what we are going to get for this fiscal year, we are going into a biennium, but we don’t know what we are going to have for the next fiscal year,” Richardson said. “Going forward as it gets tighter and tighter, it might not be possible to offer severance at all.”

Snowberger said the original plan was to break the layoffs out over a period of two years, but the county decided against this plan for morale reasons.

“You want people to feel valued and have them understand that once we are done with the cuts we are done,” Snowberger said. “So we decided to do them all the first year so that way people aren’t on edge of the potential of losing their job.”

Snowberger said hopefully further employee layoffs, if any, will occur this year. She said she thinks the county would consider offering the employees their positions back if the situation with the budget improves.

“It’s hard to promise somebody employment when you don’t know what the future holds, but I think that it is a real possibility,” She said. “Hopefully everybody understands. It is what it is at this point.”