Year’s end legislative message; is Sullivan County in a better place than a year ago?
Many changes have taken place to move Sullivan County into a better place fiscally. The current legislature has reduced spending by monitoring contracts, reviewing vacancy requests and analyzing all expenditures. Sound financial practices in adopting a fund-balance policy have strengthened the fiscal outlook.
The ability to bring taxes in under the New York State tax cap while maintaining vital services is noteworthy, along with the county receiving an important bond rating increase through Standard and Poor's Rating Service (S&P). However, additional bond requests need to be preceded by a summary of impacts on the tax rate to preserve our bond rating as well as to weigh affordability.
Preserving Medicaid for our needy, while addressing a system lacking oversight, has been a priority. Efforts have been advanced in addressing needs in foster care to protect children.
Much progress has been made in the transition of our homeless to more permanent housing. The number of homeless has been drastically reduced, through the efforts of the county’s Health and Family Division, by identifying family connections. Moving away from substandard housing will be the goal as well as providing much needed oversight of thousands of unverified Medicaid vendors.
The Fraud Investigative Team has recouped monies and instituted changes in policy to improve a broken system. I have advanced a policy addressing the unsustainable number of parolees entering the county with the goal of reducing re-offenders entering our jail system.
Agricultural initiatives are moving forward in the area of food distribution, while the long awaited red meat processing plant has broken ground. Energy-efficient policies have saved dollars and set long-term goals through the Office of Sustainability. I continue to advocate for equitable small business development through our economic development entities.
In 2014, perhaps the largest and most expensive capital project in county history will be decided—the proposed $80 million dollar jail project. We owe the people of Sullivan County an open process to examine less costly options, as the current proposal would carry debt payments between $4.6 million and $5.2 million per year creating fiscal concerns.
Passage of the ethics law has been a move toward better governance. The importance of open government cannot be understated. The recommendation of one concerned citizen can change the course of history. I urge participation at all levels of government to keep government accountable.
I thank my constituents for allowing me to serve and will continue to do my best.
[Cindy Geiger has been a Sullivan County Legislator since January 2012.]