OSWEGO, NY – In his State of the County Address on Thursday afternoon, Fred Beardsley highlighted several of the positives from the past year.
However, the Chair of the Oswego County Legislature also recognized the many problems facing the county in the future.
Among the trouble-makers are the unfunded mandates being sent down from the state.
“Dealing with this dilemma will require many difficult decisions and bi-partisan support, and recognition that the state must stop this practice,” the chairman said.
It has reached a point that essentially, local taxes are now actually state taxes as everything the county collects is used to pay for state mandated services, he pointed out.
“This simply can’t continue. And, it is my hope that everyone here today will commit to working together to find a fair and equitable resolution to this problem,” Beardsley said. “We need to look at all possibilities, we need to re-examine how we do business, and most importantly, we need to differentiate between what we like to do and what we have the ability to do.”
Mike Kunzwiler, Minority Leader of the Legislature, agreed.
“I respect the olive branch he’s extended. And, I agree, to get things done we do have to work together,” Kunzwiler told Oswego County Today. “We all want to work together for the betterment of the county. We may disagree how we get there from time to time.”
What he disagrees with is claims that everything is hunky-dory.
“The unemployment rate came out yesterday; Oswego County is the highest in the area. So, while we don’t want to alarm people, we do have obligations to let (taxpayers) know exactly where we are,” he said. “Right now, we’re not in a real good place. There are going to be some hard decisions made and you can point the finger in 10 different directions. But, you know, we can only control what we control.”
During Thursday’s legislature meeting, legislators approved a request from the District Attorney to combine two positions into one. The action will save the county a reported $7,000.
“This has been our point all along. This is something we should step back and look at doing in every department” Kunzwiler said. “The amount of savings we’re getting aren’t going to meet the goals that we have to meet to keep the tax rate down. We used a big portion of our reserve last year; and we can’t keep doing that.”
“Bottom line is, we are willing to work together. We have to sit down together and come up with an entire comprehensive plan to make sure that we do everything in a logical order. If we’re going to reduce government, we have to have a plan to do it.”
Budgeting by “putting your finger in the dam” isn’t the way to go, he said.
“Bottom line is the amount of money we’ve spent has gone up and the amount of money we brought in is down,” he said.
“There is always more room to cut,” Majority Leader Jim Oldenburg said. “But we just don’t want to lose the services for the community. The unfunded mandates coming from the state are making our job a lot harder.”
The legislators are going to have to make many tough decisions in the near future, he added.
“We’re just hoping that everyone can get onboard and do what we have to do for the good of the county as a whole,” he said. “Some of these decisions probably won’t be popular. We’ve been keeping it status quo as long as we can (tax rate). But there’s going to come a time when we’re going to have raise taxes if we can’t find a way to get out from under the burden of all the state mandates.”