Dan Hust | Democrat
As County Manager David Fanslau listens, Steve Daley of Narrowsburg tells legislators on Thursday that he is considering moving to Pennsylvania to escape the increasing taxes and fees proposed in Sullivan County.
Budget vote looms; residents seek change
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Thursday’s midday budget hearing at the Government Center one of two official hearings featured nearly a dozen speakers, each focusing on either the 2010 tentative budget, the proposed county jail, or the upcoming solid waste user fee.
Grahamsville resident Ken Walter kicked off the hearing with a request for better county leadership, especially on handling cuts to staff.
“I feel very strongly we should be furloughing everybody a certain number of days,” he told legislators.
He also argued for the county to review Sullivan County Community College expenditures and remember that small businesses are on their last legs in the county.
“[You should] take a year to stand still on our budget,” he said. “... We all need to take a breath.”
County employee Steve Korba agreed with Walter on the furlough idea, advocating for a four-day workweek, part-time jobs for those workers who would otherwise be laid off, and temporary salary rollbacks for management.
The Mileses resident was particularly disturbed about proposed cuts to his department, Grants Administration, which brought in $39 million in grant funding in 2009.
Priscilla Bassett, Glenn Pontier and Sandy Oxford shared worries about the Public Health Department, where Director Carol Ryan has warned that two impending staff cuts will devastate her office’s ability to serve residents.
“I’m amazed what they do with so little” as it is, observed Oxford, one of the county’s foremost community activists.
“When you remove two workers who are generating revenue through their efforts,” said Bassett, who co-chairs the Senior Legislative Action Commission (SLAC), “... I deeply feel public health services will not be able to fulfill their duties to the people of Sullivan County.”
“In my mind, it threatens the public health, and I know you don’t want to do that,” added Pontier, who is program director of Sullivan Renaissance.
Callicoon resident Arnold Baum focused on the solid waste user fee.
“You are charging twice,” he argued over the hybrid model. “... This is not fair.”
He felt staffing cuts are unavoidable, regardless of any past mismanagement in county government.
“We are in the present, and the present has presented us with a big problem: the landfill,” he said.
Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito saw at least one possible solution: the creation of a volunteer corps to help offset employees’ workloads.
Narrowsburg businessman Steve Daley warned legislators that any hike in fees and taxes may backfire.
“Always increasing our taxes is just not the answer,” he said.
In addition to the user fee, county taxes are projected to rise around five percent in 2010.
“My wife and I have discussed the possibility of moving to Pennsylvania,” stated Daley. “I’m a true-blue local guy, but you’ve got me so upset, I don’t want to deal with Sullivan County anymore!”
Callicoon businessman Bob DeCristofaro agreed with Daley that the county “is taking the wrong approach” insofar as waste is concerned.
“Get out of it,” he said of the trash disposal business. “Let private enterprise take care of it.”
He felt the resulting loss of dozens of county personnel would be a “minor inconvenience” as compared to the ongoing exodus of people from the area.
“Has anybody thought what it [the waste fee] is going to do to the poorest people in our community?” DeCristofaro asked.
Monticello resident Tom Manza warned that the new county jail’s impact would outstrip all others.
“That five percent tax increase would be dwarfed by the tax increase from the jail,” he predicted, noting that some estimates have pegged it at 20 percent.
Like Manza, Maddy Itzkoff lives near the proposed jail site in Monticello and also felt this is not the time for a new jail, no matter what the state demands.
“We cannot, as a county, afford this,” she said. “... I think it’s a terrible, terrible time to put this on the community.”
Legislators did not respond to the speakers but will make a decision this Thursday at 2 p.m. on whether or not to approve the budget.
That meeting, to be held in the Government Center in Monticello, is open to the public and will feature a public comment period.