MAYVILLE - County Executive Greg Edwards is looking to help state leaders recognize what they can do to help save money at the county level.
Looking ahead to the next year, the last in his second four-year term as county executive, Edwards said one of the biggest challenges is the county's financial situation. And, the issue is one shared by counties across the state as well.
"I think the challenges that counties across New York state are going to face, and certainly Chautauqua County as well, is that dollars available to do the work we want to do have long ago evaporated. The demands by New York state to deliver more of their services without the money necessary to deliver them continue to escalate dramatically," Edwards said.
Edwards predicted that the state is looking at a $1 billion loss due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. And, Edwards predicts those costs will have a ripple effect as they pass down through the counties.
The New York State Association of Counties - whose mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public - has submitted to the state more than 200 proposals on ways to save money. Over the course of the next month, Edwards said he will be working closely with the association to provide options on dealing with some of the issues.
"We proposed 213 proposals last year. We refined those down to those that could have immediate impact and be most likely to be successful in this environment. We just released another presentation with regard to preschool education," he said.
According to Edwards, the county is being forced to spend approximately $100,000 per child in the provision of preschool education services to the children who qualify.
However, he said the county has no say over who is receiving the money, what they are receiving, how much they are being paid to deliver those services or the outcomes of those services.
"They are just making us pay the bill," Edwards said. "So, what we are recommending is to better align the services. Make it better for the students who receive them and more efficient for those ultimately, the state taxpayers who are paying for them."
Additionally, Edwards said the North County Water District is "a significant undertaking" that is headed in the right direction. He said it will need continued support over the next year from the county, in direct partnership with the municipalities in the northern part of the county.
Finally, Edwards said the county has been doing well with continued economic development and growth during his seven years as county executive.
"We need to continue that work, where we have successfully retained thousands of jobs and we've worked in partnership with businesses to grow jobs and opportunities here in the county," Edwards said. "Those are the areas that will remain significant focuses for us as we move into this new year."