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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July 9th, 2010

Sullivan County’s financial future is not good

With half of the year already over, Sullivan County officials are seriously beginning to tackle our 2011 budget, and as I have been saying all along, the news is not good.

County Manager David Fanslau was recently alarmed when the State was considering a four percent property tax cap in its budget.

Even though such an increase would generate approximately $2 million in revenue, it tragically is not enough to even make a dent in making us financially solvent.

We are shockingly facing an additional $3.72 million decline in a variety of revenue streams including sales taxes, mortgage taxes, Racino income, etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera.

On the expenditure side, Sullivan County is now facing a $1 million increase in health insurance premiums; $500,000 increase in pension costs; and $500,000 increase in Medicaid local share. This does not include a loss of revenue that has stalled in Congress.

In addition to all this, there are state mandates that fall on the counties.

In a recent letter to the head of the New York State Association of Counties, Fanslau pointed out that “State mandated early intervention and pre-k programs require the counties to expend millions with zero ability to control the cost or the growth of the program. The State requires counties to fund indigent defense with very little State aid. Counties are facing cuts in reimbursement rates for health and social services programs mandated by the State. New York State remains one of two states that require a county share of Medicaid, which in Sullivan County will likely exceed $20 million in 2011!”

Fanslau added, “Certainly county elected officials, including the Sullivan County Legislature, don’t want to increase property taxes, but the property taxes are predominantly driven by the unfunded and underfunded mandates. If New York State took full financial responsibility for Medicaid benefits that they chose to provide, then counties would not face the dire fiscal decisions before us. I know Sullivan County would not face layoffs or property tax increases, if we weren’t sending $20 million of locally generated tax revenues to Albany in 2011!”

Fanslau warned legislatures they must begin the budget process with the principal of not increasing General Fund spending. This will be the last budget approved before they are up for reelection.

As an alternative to the blame game, there must be dialogue between the people of Sullivan County.

The County Executive Research Committee is holding forums throughout the county to discuss the possibly of creating a County Executive. I urge everyone to attend and keep an open mind. Chairman Sean Rieber should be contacted at (845)794-1532 for further information.

Instead of self centered political agendas and protecting turf, our elected officials must finally do something. Things are not getting better, and obviously our government is not working.

We need leadership and accountability. Social service programs are bleeding us to death. We need someone who will seriously work towards economic development and bring everyone to the table.

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