Dan Hust | Democrat
From the left, Legislator Kitty Vetter, Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew, Deputy Budget Commissioner Janet Young, Legislator Kathy LaBuda and Acting County Manager Josh Potosek discuss the tentative 2014 county budget on Thursday.
Figuring it out
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO November 5, 2013 Legislators have kicked off what will be a brief but intense series of public meetings about the tentative 2014 Sullivan County government budget.
Standing at close to $200 million as proposed by Acting County Manager Josh Potosek, the budget must be finalized and adopted next month.
That means legislators have to come to at least majority agreement on a range of ideas, many of which involve adding personnel or equipment, which translates to additional funding needs.
So this past Thursday, members of the Legislature’s Management and Budget Committee began hashing out the priorities, detailed first by Potosek, then by Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew.
As currently proposed, the budget comes with a tax hike of 3.59 percent, but the state-mandated property tax cap maxes out at a 2.12 percent increase.
The difference between those two percentages is only about $16 for a home assessed at $100,000, but it’s a major decision for legislators.
A vote must be held if the tax cap is overridden, and at least six of the nine legislators have to say “aye” in what likely would be an unpopular decision.
Nevertheless, they seem to agree with Potosek that there’s some room to restore personnel and services cut in prior budgets.
That led to a brief consideration of raising the sales tax, which hasn’t been increased in six years.
Legislator Cora Edwards had heard an upstate county had upped their sales tax by a quarter of a percent to pay for jail costs, but Legislator Alan Sorensen dismissed the idea.
“I think it’s high enough,” he said.
As it is, Potosek said Sullivan County is currently $50,000 ahead of this time last year in its sales tax collections.
McAndrew discussed a variety of issues with legislators, including long-term debt obligations, jail cell repairs, urgent vehicle replacement needs, the proposed addition of a buildings engineer, the return of a solid waste director, and whether to put substantial monies into repairing the Sheriff’s Office’s headquarters on Monticello’s Bushnell Avenue if the patrol HQ may move to a building near the former Apollo Mall.
“I’m trying to come up with a budget that fits within the cap,” McAndrew advised. “We pretty much tried to keep where we were last year.”
But there are pressing infrastructure needs, he said, like county roads near Roscoe and Livingston Manor.
“The roads in [the Town of] Rockland aren’t going to last as long because of the [harsher] winter,” McAndrew told legislators.
He added that they require not simply repair but entire rebuilding.
“Some of these roads we have to address we’ve been putting them off for too long now,” he remarked.
But like everything else, that will cost money more than ever before. In fact, McAndrew said that just a few years ago, it cost the county $2 million to pave 40 miles of roadway. That’s now a $5 million effort.
Legislators will meet again in public this Thursday at 10:15 a.m. to discuss the Health and Family Services areas of the budget, then again on November 14 at 9 a.m. for the Public Safety issues (both in the Government Center in Monticello).
The public will then have a chance to weigh in on the (mostly) finalized proposals on Tuesday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, December 19 at 1:30 p.m., again at the Government Center in Monticello.
The Legislature is expected to vote on the budget’s adoption immediately after the December 19 hearing.
The tentative budget is currently available for review at the Government Center or online at www.co.sullivan.ny.us.
County seeks 'headhunters'
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO November 5, 2013 Proposals are due this Friday from “headhunting” firms interested in finding a permanent manager for Sullivan County.
Josh Potosek has been acting county manager since David Fanslau left in March, and while Potosek was in the running with other potential successors this summer, legislators ultimately opted to seek offers from professional executive search companies.
A similar process yielded Fanslau seven years ago, but its cost means officials aren’t committing to this version of a candidate search until they see the price tag.
“If it’s something we feel is reasonable, then probably yes, we would [move forward],” Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson told the Democrat yesterday.
The request for proposals (RFP) sent out in October indicates that if a firm is chosen it will have to do the following:
• Help the county create a job description
• Conduct outreach and recruitment efforts
• Review resumés
• Conduct preliminary interviews and evaluations
• Whittle the list down to 10 candidates with “the most promising qualifications,” to be delivered to the county within 45 days
• Further pare down that list of 10 to no more than 5 candidates for recommendation to the county, with background checks that include credit and criminal histories
• Coordinate the final interviews
• Notify rejected candidates
• If the selected candidate resigns or is fired within the first year, guarantee an additional search effort at no charge to the county
If legislators do hire a headhunter, they’ll likely start work in January, with Samuelson guessing a permanent county manager could be in office by spring or early summer.