Dan Hust | Democrat
County Manager David Fanslau believes that the state’s lack of true mandate reform will significantly hobble Sullivan County’s ability to hold the line on tax increases next fiscal year.
Strategic planners face 'thankless' task
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Tuesday marked the start of the County Legislature’s arduous strategic visioning.
The Strategic Plan Review Subcommittee is facing pressure from all sides from taxpayers unable to pay more taxes, from employees unable to handle more work, and from a state unwilling to lessen the burdens it places on the county.
“It will be substantially challenging, if not impossible, to develop a budget within the [two-percent] tax cap framework [this year],” County Manager David Fanslau told legislators at the subcommittee’s first meeting on Tuesday.
Reforming New York’s unfunded mandate system which is the cause of Fanslau’s warning is outside the subcommittee’s purview, but legislators intently listened to Real Property Tax Services Director Lynda Levine and County Clerk Dan Briggs define the successes and challenges of their departments.
“I can tell you my staff is already at maximum [workload],” Levine asserted. “And I don’t believe we can cut any services.”
“We have no more available space for records storage,” explained Briggs. “... It’s something that has got to be addressed.”
Woodbourne resident Mark Sherman, however, cautioned legislators to think globally.
Every department head, he predicted, “is going to spin a tale of unmitigated horror if their budget is cut.
“... I would like you to look at the needs of the county and make an independent assessment of what the allocations should be.”
Tuesday’s scenario will likely play out in similar form for the next nine Tuesdays, each of which will feature a Strategic Plan Review Subcommittee meeting at 1 p.m. in the Government Center. All meetings will be open to the public.
Slated to make presentations this Tuesday are the Sheriff’s Office and E-911, followed by the Probation Department and the District Attorney’s Office on April 24.
Fanslau said the subcommittee will ultimately make recommendations to the full Legislature for inclusion in the county’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2014, which must be adopted by June 30.
Balancing the county’s many needs is a goal but not a guarantee.
“I wish you all the best of luck in the world,” Sherman told legislators, “because you’ve got an absolutely thankless job to do.”
Legislative committee asks for fracking ban
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators on the Health and Family Services Committee unanimously agreed yesterday to “urgently” ask the state to ban the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The resolution will now go before the full Legislature at its April 26 meeting (2 p.m. in the Government Center). If approved there, it will be sent to the state.
It’s based on a similar Onondaga County request and was tweaked by Legislator Cindy Gieger, Smallwood pediatrician Larysa Dyrszka, Public Health Nursing Director Carol Ryan and County Attorney Sam Yasgur. The former three have indicated prior opposition to fracking, while the latter Yasgur was consulted to ensure the county would not be exposed to “additional liability,” said Ryan.
“Carol and I discussed back and forth how to make it easier to understand,” Gieger added.
She and fellow legislators Kitty Vetter, Kathy LaBuda, Jonathan Rouis and Cora Edwards the full membership of the Health Committee voted in approval, meaning with five of the nine already in favor, it’s likely the resolution will pass the full Legislature later this month.
The resolution is based on the public health concerns pertaining to fracking, which injects sand, water and chemicals underground to break up the shale formations which hold the gas.
Though the industry and drilling advocates point out that fracking takes place thousands of feet beneath drinking water sources, the resolution cites the state’s extremely cautious approach to drilling in the NYC and Syracuse watersheds as proof that the potential for negative impacts exists.
“The health and welfare of the citizens of Sullivan County are no less important and vital than the health and welfare of the citizens of New York City or Syracuse,” the resolution states, adding that legislators believe the county’s aquifers may be “more vulnerable” than surface reservoirs.
The full text of the resolution is available at the county’s website: www.co.sullivan.ny.us.