Next month, Suffolk County will pull the trigger on the largest set of layoffs in its history. An early list of 464 employees was pruned to 304, but it's no consolation to those still on it.
At almost every turn, Association of Municipal Employees members have lobbied lawmakers en masse. In increasingly fraught fashion, they've asked for early retirements, furloughs, property tax hikes -- anything -- to spare positions.
But with Suffolk facing a projected $530 million deficit, Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone says the union's cost-saving ideas may only avoid future layoffs, not reverse those about to occur.
Republicans insist more workers can be saved, particularly those whose positions are grant-funded or bring revenue.
Meanwhile, those who received their notices are bracing for life after June 30.
They include mail couriers and marine biologists, young police aides and security guards nearing 30 years of tenure. Here are some:
Amanda Ericksen, 28, Smithtown
Clerk-typist, Health Department, Preventative Medicine
Ericksen and her husband, Eric, returned home April 28 to find not one but two Suffolk County layoff notices in their mailbox.
This was nothing new.
Amanda had been cut in 2009 from her data-entry position at Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus. Eric, who drives drill rigs and Bobcats for Suffolk's groundwater monitoring unit, was a Verizon lineman until he was let go that year. He originally had been on the Suffolk layoff list, but learned last week his was one of 11 water-quality jobs to be saved.
At a recent legislative hearing, Amanda Ericksen said her generation was struggling to make it on Long Island: "I am 28 years old and the future of Suffolk County, but only if you let me."
She and her husband rent the home where Eric grew up, yielding the living room to their rat terrier puppy, Maggie. Looking for their own place is on hold, even after Eric's job was restored.
The couple married last October; almost immediately, they began hearing Amanda's job was in danger. She has a master's degree from Post, and wants to become a guidance counselor. But for now, she's worried.
"People say, 'Oh, you're young, you'll be fine,' " Amanda said. "In this economy?"
Scott Stocker, 55, Patchogue
Auditor, Parks Department
Cut an auditor, and he'll search for the numbers to prove it's not necessary.
Days after receiving his layoff notice, Stocker reminded lawmakers that he was hired only after a parks worker pocketed thousands of dollars in beach fees. By axing auditors and accountants, he said his department risked returning "to a state of no fiscal oversight."
Now, after learning that many lost positions generate revenue -- or are funded by federal or state grants -- Stocker is working on the report he said lawmakers should have had before approving layoffs.
"You want to lay off 315 people?" Stocker asked. "You should have a line-by-line cost-benefit analysis, because you're pulling the rug out from under the lives of so many people."
Stocker called his layoff "a curveball from leftfield." He had worked at Broadridge Financial Solutions in Islip before signing on with Suffolk. Stocker said he wanted to stay until he was 62, then collect a pension that would have totaled about $16,000 a year.
"Thank God I've been saving. Turns out I might need it now," he said.
Shane Fitzpatrick, 23, Centereach
Laborer, Public Works
Fitzpatrick watched his dad put in years with the county public works department, enjoying good benefits and building a retirement.
"So I figured it was safe, and starting a family, that was important to me," he said.
Fitzpatrick is preparing to marry his fiance, Alana Carreras, and the couple has an infant daughter, Julie. The couple has a deposit on a wedding hall, but with Fitzpatrick's layoff, aren't sure when they'll tie the knot.
"I don't want to lose it," he said of the hall. "But we don't know where we're going to come up with the money."
Fitzpatrick works in highway maintenance. That means he helps plow snow in the winter and fill potholes and keep median grass down the rest of the year.
Six co-workers also will be cut, and he wonders how the remaining crew will manage.
Fitzpatrick plans to return to school for to study ventilation work. But he says he probably won't be leaving his parents' house soon -- at least not when he worries how to afford the formula, at $27 a can, that the 8-month-old requires because she can't tolerate milk.
"It's scary, figuring out what to do next," he said.
Jeannine Hughes, 56, Central Islip
Senior clerk, Law Department
Suffolk County is doubling the number of red-light cameras. The same can't be said for staff who process the citations for mailing.
Hughes, who says she alone can sometimes handle 600 citations daily, calls it counterintuitive to increase a unit's work while cutting workers.
Officials have gained state approval to increase red-light cameras from 50 to 100, and estimate an additional $6 million in annual fines from drivers caught running the signals.
"I assumed since there's going to be an increased workload, they'd need all the people they hired," Hughes said.
Hughes is married with two daughters -- one grown, one in high school. She signed on with the county after leaving her job at a photography studio last year because her family couldn't afford health care.
Her husband runs a videography business.
"We've struggled the last couple of years, with the economy," Hughes said, noting that her family may need to apply for a state-subsidized medical plan. "This is going to impact us tremendously."
"This was just a shock," she said. "I didn't expect it."
Joe Callari, 41, Mastic
Security guard, Public Works
Some of the loudest applause from the union members who packed a recent legislative hearing came for Callari.
One of the guards to be replaced by contractors, he read a letter Bellone sent employees in January. It noted how he'd streamlined government as Babylon Town supervisor "without layoffs," and welcomed employee cost-saving suggestions.
"That letter is a complete fallacy," Callari said. "He hasn't done that here."
A guard at Hauppauge's H. Lee Dennison Building, Callari has been a vocal opponent of county layoffs.
He says he has a lot at stake.
"It's just a nightmare," Callari said. "The reality of it is, once you fall behind, it's just so much harder to catch up."
"We give a lot back to the county," he said of the union. "And this is what we get?"
Jack Travis, 34, Central Islip
Psychiatric social worker, Health Department
Travis called himself the "classic" example of a private-sector worker who jumped to government: he knew he'd earn less, but that he'd get better benefits down the road.
"I was looking at the long-term picture," said the licensed social worker, who left Melville's Hospice Care Network to help probationers with drug and mental health issues.
But eight months after his hire, the long-term picture has darkened. He is being laid off, his former position is filled, and even with a master's from Stony Brook University, "it's slim pickings right now," he said.
Travis and his wife, also a social worker, own a condo.
"If I don't get a job in a couple of months, I'll probably have to look to my parents to keep my mortgage afloat," said Travis.
On a daily basis, Travis said he and his colleagues "do amazing things." They counsel residents who have violated their probation and would otherwise be headed back to jail, directing them toward rehabilitation, psychiatric treatment and G.E.D. programs. Travis' layoff leaves one mental health practitioner at the probation department's Hauppauge Day Reporting Center.
"We're saving the county incredible amounts of money compared to incarceration," he said, adding that his job is federally grant-funded. "This has all been a little puzzling to me."