Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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October 8th, 2009

County figures out how to get blood from a stone

How do they get blood from a stone? That is what the Sullivan County Legislature has to tackle with as they prepare to hit us with yet another tax increase to meet a never ending budget mess.

The tension at the government center is at an all time high, as Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis and Vice Chair Ron Hiatt sends out an advisory warning us with what is about to come. They say “everything is on the table” from eliminating non mandated social service programs to tax increases. Clearly things in Sullivan County are not good.

But, why should any of us act surprised with all this gloom but true news?

According to recent statistics we are now the third county in the state with the highest poverty level, we are loaded with layers of government, we lack solid economic development and our unemployment rate is at an all time high.

Crime is up despite a hardworking police force that keeps making arrest after arrest. Our District Attorney’s office is also highly successful in prosecuting and obtaining convictions of those apprehended, but unfortunately along with poverty comes crime.

Although we cannot blame the legislature or County Manager David Fanslau for the mess we are in, something drastically needs to be done, and it must come from those who run our county government.

While I am highly impressed with Rouis, he needs to get all the members of the legislature to sit down and begin to seriously work together. Political caucuses and petty bickering must cease.

Fanslau has been a dynamic County Manager, but now is also the time that we must begin to seriously consider an elected County Executive. The power of the County Manager is questionable due to the Legislature. A County Executive will report to the people.

Federal and State governments will most likely be blamed for our financial crises because they are requiring us to contribute more, while shelling out less. Sales tax revenues here is around 4.25 percent less than last year’s bleak numbers, and mortgage tax revenue is also about half of last year’s.

Our property taxes will most likely go up under 5 percent, and municipal services will be cut even further. The argument why we need these hikes is very real. But, how much can we afford to pay?

Fanslau calling the 2010 budget process “challenging” said he meets with each legislator individually to determine their particular priorities. We can only hope that politics will not influence which projects remain intact while others are cut.

He told me prior to his tenure the tentative budget was submitted by October 1, but he said that early date relied upon significantly “stale revenue data for the current fiscal year, and skewed the projected revenues for the succeeding fiscal year, in some cases dramatically. The tentative budget is now released no later than November 15.

Legislator Alan Sorensen wants to see the County implement a “Cash Flow Management Plan” concurrently with the adoption of the new budget.

Sorensen said, “I have observed an increasingly disturbing trend by the County not to pay its bills on time. As a result, vendors who have provided their services in good faith are left waiting until the County has enough money to pay them. This is no way to run a business or government.”

He added, “With a downturn in the economy and tax revenues decreasing, it is time is for the legislature to work with the County Manager and Treasurer to create a Cash Flow Management Plan in order to resolve this issue. We must take proactive measures to address this issue as soon as possible.”

Legislator Leni Binder being very realistic said, “So much is mandated and necessary to meet contract obligations and very little is really our choice. We need the jail and we must build the tech park or both the college and the economy will have no future.”

The question still remains, how much blood can they get from a stone?

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