By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO An effort to figure out what to do with filling vacancies in light of a $1.3 million deficit was delayed by legislators until at least yesterday.
Last Thursday, the Management and Budget Committee discussed the matter but ultimately tossed it off to the Executive Committee later in the day.
While Executive includes all nine legislators, the planned discussion never materialized, being instead tabled to yesterday (see this coming Tuesday’s Democrat for an update).
County Manager David Fanslau awaits legislators’ decision if unanimity can even be found on the issue.
In the meantime, Legislator David Sager urged citizens to form a grassroots campaign to force the state to stop dictating mandated services that are costing the county more than three-quarters of its budget.
“They [state leaders] are really good at controlling the dialogue,” Sager remarked, “but they’re not good at managing anything.”
Legislator Jodi Goodman agreed, suggesting the county “push back” against the state and federal governments when they try to force county personnel to take on extra duties.
Fanslau gave legislators a list showing how much the state’s requirements will impact the county in 2012, when a $13 million county deficit is projected.
Pension costs are going up for the county by $2 million, while Medicaid will rise nearly $600,000. More than half a million dollars in other state-mandated program increases means the county’s looking at over $3 million worth of new expenses next year.
Fanslau estimated such an increase would require a 6.5 percent tax rate hike yet Governor Andrew Cuomo is moving toward a two percent property tax increase cap.
With such a limit, however, services and personnel are bound to be cut, warned legislators.
“So how do you task what’s more important?” questioned Teamsters Local 445 agent Sandy Shaddock, who worried that while vacancies may be filled, longtime employees could lose their jobs. “... There has to be a balance.”
She advocated the county plead with the state to restructure the tax-exempt regulations that have crippled the county’s ability to collect taxes on millions of dollars’ worth of property.
Legislator Leni Binder said that effort has been ongoing for years, “but every time it gets to the court system, we lose.”
Sager urged Shaddock to join with the county and citizens in lobbying Albany for meaningful change.
“The unions have to collectively argue this point with us,” he stated. “... You know how to organize. ... We need to fight this together if we want a better state.”
While 2011’s $1.3 million deficit remained unresolved, the 2012 budget did get discussed during the Executive Committee meeting, pertaining to a resolution to set a public hearing on moving the filing of the tentative budget up from November to October 21.
Legislator Kathy LaBuda questioned the move, but its promoter, Legislator Alan Sorensen, argued that it “gives us more time to review the tentative budget.”
“I think you’re reaching into a short window here,” observed Sager, who advocated for saving such a decision until next year, when a new Legislature will be seated.
Legislators unanimously agreed to that suggestion, leaving this year’s tentative budget to be filed in November.
Properties up for sale
Elsewhere during last week’s legislative committee meetings, Deputy Treasurer Nancy Buck revealed that 410 parcels are going up for auction in June due to foreclosures.
To start at 10 a.m., the tax auction will be held over two days, June 22 and 23, with properties available for online perusal starting May 22.
Grahamsville attorney William Brenner returned that day to reiterate his request to set a vote to abolish the Legislature, but legislators unanimously told him “no.”
A public vote on the matter cannot be held unless legislators agree to it.