OSWEGO, NY – In his first State of the County Address, Fred Beardsley focused on the positive, highlighting what has been accomplished and the goals he’d like to reach this year.
The neophyte Oswego County Legislature Chairman encouraged all legislators, Republicans and Democrats, to join him in working for “a positive benefit to the taxpayer.”
“You have to come in every year and give every leader an opportunity. We’re willing to work together,” said Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, minority leader. “I will challenge the new chairman when it comes time for those issues; to look for his bipartisan effort to come to commonality on some issues.”
“You hold everybody at their word. It’s got to be a two-way street,” he continued.
The issue with the mandates isn’t new, Kunzwiler said.
If mandate relief is addressed by the State Legislature, there’s liable to be cuts elsewhere by the state to compensate for that, he cautioned.
“It’s going to have an impact. We receive millions of dollars from the state. My caution has always been we have to clean up our own house first. We have to show that we’re willing to make a sacrifice,” he said.
The county’s state representatives Assemblyman Will Barclay and Sen. Patty Ritchie both support the governor’s mandate relief plan, Kunzwiler noted.
“Where do they stand publicly on this issue? Maybe this legislature should hear from them; why are they supporting it?” he said. “Right now we have a governor in Albany that is at least trying to make changes.”
Oswego County is moving in the right direction, the new chairman said.
“2012 marks the eighth year in a row that the generic tax rate for Oswego County has been lowered or remained the same. In fact, in 2005, our generic tax rate was $9.20 per $1,000 of assessed value,” Beardsley said. “This year, in 2012, our generic tax rate is $6.95 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is a decrease of 25 percent.”
He went on to provide highlights from the past 12 months regarding the nuclear tax deal as well as county departments including highway, solid waste, promotion & tourism and others.
Based on a study sponsored by the New York State Department of Economic Development, tourism activity in Oswego County resulted in about $276 in avoided state and local taxes for the average household in 2010, he said.
“To put that in other terms, our 2009 investment of $8.60 per household in tourism promotion avoided $276 per household in taxes,” he explained.
The Legislature is committed to driving drug crime out of communities, the chairman said.
“The first step was to re-establish our undercover Drug Task Force. This task force of County, State, and local narcotics officers is already conducting joint operations and making significant arrests,” he added. “We secured grant funding for the DTF for the next three years. Today, on your agenda, you have an opportunity to strengthen these efforts by asking for a special designation that will lead to federal funding for the DTF.”
Beardsley said he’s confident that if the Legislature continues ot work together it will be able to face the challenges ahead.
“Yet I feel I must caution us all, regardless of party, regardless of whether your district is geographically large or small, regardless of whether it’s a city or a town, that we must not slip into a government driven by politics or personalities,” he warned. “We must not expend time, money, personnel or any public resources for political or personal attacks. I am confident in the capabilities of my fellow legislators and I invite you to join me in a positive and progressive approach to the taxpayers business.”
As chairman he pledged to expend all his time and energy to focus on running the people’s government in Oswego County to the best of his ability – and challenged the other legislators to join him in that endeavor.
Oswego County will devote “significant efforts” toward convincing State leaders to relieve county taxpayers of the unfair tax burden of State mandates, he said.
“The biggest mandate is, of course, Medicaid. We’ll collect $42.6 million in property taxes this year, and $25 million of it is for Medicaid,” he pointed out. “Oswego County taxpayers send a half million dollars to Albany every week to pay for the State’s Medicaid program.”
He urged the Legislature to support efforts to “impose a hard cap on Medicaid cost now … THIS year … not three years down the road.”
And, he added the public could help in this matter by using links provided on the county’s website to learn about mandates and sign the petition to “tell Albany that when it comes to mandates and high taxes, enough is enough!”
Beardsley is looking into a variety of means to save the taxpayers money. Among them are continuing the efforts of the Green Team to find more efficient and economical ways to run the county.
Cracking down on welfare fraud is another way.
“Our message to those who think that they can use these programs to steal from our taxpayers is simple: We Are Watching – If you are stealing, we will catch you and you will pay!” he said.
He thanked all county employees and department heads for a job well done.
“I assure you, we know how hard you work and appreciate your dedication to your job and the people of this county,” he said. “I would like to thank you on behalf of the Legislature for your efforts and cooperation during these difficult economic times.”
He closed by re-emphasizing his confidence in the ability of his fellow legislators, the county’s employees, and department heads.
“I am confident that together we can accomplish our task of providing the people of Oswego County with an efficient, friendly and effective government. I thank you all and look forward to a positive and productive 2012,” he said.