County Proposal Would Waive Civil Service Exam Fees

(Photo Source: Unsplash).

As the Cortland County Legislature continues to remediate its situation with employee retention and recruitment, a proposal from legislators would waive civil service exam fees in an effort to ease the process for applicants.

The move, legislators and other county officials said, should make local government jobs more attractive. The resolution on the proposal was unanimously approved during the Government Operations Committee meeting on Thursday.

Laurie Leonard, the head of the county department of personnel, spoke on the decline of civil service exam applicants.

“We have been seeing a decrease in our exam participants for a variety of reasons,” Leonard said. “We thought maybe eliminating the fee would get more people in the door. We have decreased the number of civil service exams applied by about 50 percent.”

Leonard said the county generates revenue from putting on these tests, noting they pay the State Department of Civil Service for the exams and then charge extra to participants.

“Waiving fees would affect our revenues by about $6,000-$10,000 on a good year,” she added. 

Legislator Kelly Preston (R-LD-10) noted there are other ways in which waiving the exam fees is beneficial to the county.

“(Waiving the fee) frees up staff time. At the end of the day (the loss of revenue) is kind of a wash,” Preston said. She noted that not having to account for the fee saves up on staff time for accounting and other duties.

Legislative chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) spoke in support of the measure. Fitch is not a voting member of the committee.

“This is one of the best things we can do. This is just the next step to get those vacancies filled,” Fitch said. “I thought it was odd to have applicants who have to give you money to apply. I never understood that. I am happy and I support this 100 percent.” 

The universal waiver would end Dec. 31 2023, but has an option to be renewed, after Preston introduced an amendment originally brought up by Majority Leader George Wagner (R-LD-15).

“I would like to see us exercise caution when it comes to eliminating fees,” Wagner said. “We don’t know what the economy is going to be like two years from now, so we might want to start charging fees again. We can always renew the measure in two years.” 

Legislators will vote on this measure at the Finance and Administration Committee meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with further approval needed at the legislative session on May 26.