Chautauqua County is still one of the highest-taxed counties in the nation. What actions are being taken to address this issue? For one thing, as the recent statement by the county executive indicates, we blame Albany. As he said, "The demands by New York state to deliver more of their services without the money necessary to deliver them continues to escalate dramatically."
What else are we doing? We operate a variety of enterprises intended to provide a service at low cost to the residents of the county or to make a profit.
How well are we doing at that? Let's look at one of the most recent attempts. The electric power plant was promoted with the goal of generating $2,000,000 per year in profits to the county. It is achieving about 40 percent of that. And keep in mind that even that is only being accomplished as a result of the renewable energy subsidy. What happens when the government changes the subsidy rates such as they are doing at the County Home?
Also on this specific subject, doesn't it seem out of line for the county on one hand to be fighting to keep NRG operating in an environment where they are cutting back because of the difficult price structure in the electric generating business and at the same time competing with NRG by selling subsidized electricity into the same market? I realize that the county operation is not comparable to NRG in terms of total output, but there seems to be a conflict.
These various enterprise activities taken by our county government to reduce the tax burden on the local taxpayer may or may not be effective, so what else can be done?
The governor has made it clear that local governments- and that includes the counties along with all the other tax-collecting and tax money-spending units - need to work together to reduce costs by improving effectiveness. The state is providing assistance and funds through such programs as the Local Government Efficiency Program and the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program.
What are we doing at the county level to promote this effort? The legislative committee voted down a resolution to create a commission to prepare an effectiveness improvement plan and the county executive has not held the public forum that he stated this past spring he was going to hold. It would seem that, again, in one case we are blaming Albany for our problems but not working with them in the areas that they do offer help. Again, the appearance of conflict.
To look further at the county's interest in working with the other local governments in improving government effectiveness, let's take a look at the county charter and administrative code. The code names five executive functional groups: Administrative Services, Public Facilities, Human Services, Planning and Economic Development and Intermunicipal Services. The function and operation of each of the first four are clearly defined in Articles 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the code. The interesting point is that Article 7, which would provide the information on the Intermunicipal Services function, does not exist. The Code skips from Article 6 to Article 8. I guess this clearly indicates the county's interest in working with the other local governments.
Maybe this is something that we should be looking at for this next year.
Legislator Rodney Rogers lives in Forestville.