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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December 11th, 2009

Leave public safety budgets alone

Sullivan County government is in budget mode, and within the next week we will know exactly what we are going to be hit with, and what items will be cut.

The consensus is that we will be facing a 5 percent property tax increase, a new garbage user fee, cut backs in municipal services, and employees will be fired.

Before that happens, there will be budget hearings and the opportunity for taxpayers to be heard. Then our legislators will grandstand on their priorities before making their final determinations.

The funny part of it is that our legislators make it appear as if the budget submitted by County Manager David Fanslau was solely his and they had no input in it. If that is the case they should be angry and outraged by some of his proposals.

I have spent the past week reviewing the budget and some of the cutbacks are simply wrong even during this fiscal crisis.

It is very easy to blame everything on the global economy, when in reality it has very little to do with it.

True, Federal and State governments 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.

But, the fact is, past spending practices have a lot more to do with the current crises than the economy. The County fund balance was depleted between 2000 and 2009 from over $20 Million to a mere $2.1 million. How could the legislature and county manager let it happen?

I have praised Fanslau and the legislature for finally dealing with some of our problems, but it still gets very upsetting when we look at our current conditions.

Probably the most offensive and disturbing part of Fanslau’s budget are his cutbacks in public safety. As County Manager and someone who understands governmental affairs, he should be well aware that taxpayers want adequate funding to ensure their safety. Fanslau’s proposals in this arena are totally unacceptable, and the legislature must not allow it to happen.

Public safety is being cut some $800,000.00 with the DA suffering (199,460) or 25% of the total cut, probation (218,000) or 27% of the total cut and the sheriff’s patrol (235,000) or 29%.

It is beyond belief that Fanslau would recommend the axing of the position of Chief Assistant District Attorney, leave the District Attorney’s Office with only one investigator, and cut the salary of incoming DA Jim Farrell’s by $21,000.

Unlike other parts of County Government, the District Attorney’s Office has been the type of office people deserve and expect from government. District Attorney Steve Lungen has spent years begging the County to treat his Office with respect but to no avail. Now it appears Fanslau wants to go even one step further in making it difficult Farrell to do his job. This is despite the fact that Farrell just received 70 percent of the vote.

Farrell told me his office handles approximately 4,000 new criminal cases each year. Unlike other County Departments, the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, and Probation Department do not hire outside counsel or consultants to perform any of their work or job responsibilities.

The District Attorney is responsible for staffing all of our 37 justice courts, many of which meet at night, and prosecutes cases for the NYS Police, Sheriff’s Office, Liberty Police, Monticello Police, Fallsburg Police, ENCON police, Woodridge Police, Bethel, Highland and Lumberland Constables and the DEP Police.

Our ADA’s are already overworked and receive no overtime, yet Fanslau still wants to jeopardize our safety with a reduction in staffing.

It is interesting to note that while Fanslau saw fit to cut our public safety agencies, he did not touch the County’s private contracts with Legal Aide.

Believe it or not, Legal Aid will actually receive more funding under Fanslau’s proposed budget than the District Attorney’s Office. The County Manager seems to have his priorities screwed up. Simply amazing, Legal Aide gets $1,585,508, while the DA gets $1,505,360.

And, it does not stop there; pick the proposed budget apart and you will be amazed what else was cut and what wasn’t.

Hopefully, the legislature will see things differently when it comes to our safety, and leave the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, and Probation Department alone.

1 comment to Leave public safety budgets alone

  • Nice job on an accurate perspective of the county budget. Too bad you didn’t include comments about the cuts to public health services. It is part of public safety as well and cuts in this area will put many ill and low income individuals at risk of not receiving critical services. Carol Ryan said it eloquently in her comments on the budget this week. The current flu situation for which this department will continue to need adequate resources to be able to offer vaccine to the community, home care services for the elderly and recently discharged from our hospitals, and preventive services to low income families.