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 13th, 2011

Excuses For Not Releasing Preliminary Budget

Early this week I walked through Zuccotti Park near Wall Street and observed the clusters of people organizing, protesting, and camping out.

As I listened to the protesters, and came face to face with Rev. Al Sharpton (who posed for a photo), I thought about our plight in Sullivan County and how bad the economy is all over the country.

Sullivan County has been hurting for a much longer time, and in reality the rest of the country is catching up.
We are said to be facing a $13 million budget deficit. I have been trying for weeks to get some information from County Manager David Fanslau as to where we are headed, and he finally responded.

In reality, Fanslau reports and works for the legislature, and with this being an election year, it is understandable why there is so much silence. No incumbent wants to displease a voting public especially when the news is not good.

Sullivan County officials are facing some very tough decisions. State and Federal mandates are a reality, and a new element added to make it even harder to balance a budget is tax caps. This could possibly force layoffs and service cutbacks.

Candidates on the campaign trail should be able to tell us how they would balance our budget and what they would cut, but they need information. Unfortunately, the preliminary budget will not be released until after the election. This is utterly contemptible, and legislator Alan Sorensen who is running unopposed agrees.

Sorensen told me he has advocated for the tentative budget to be provided by October 1st. “I think the voters have a right to see it before an election. While it is prepared by the County Manager, it will reflect a number of policy decisions, which the Legislature will need to decide upon such as will there be a real property increase, what services will be provided, etc.”

Fanslau sees things differently. He claims the budget cannot be released before Election Day for various reasons.

Although we know sales tax is down about $4.6 million from 2008 levels, Fanslau says “it is critically important to accurately project sales tax revenues. The reconciliation of the third quarter collections is reported to Sullivan County about the third week in October. Therefore, it would be imprudent to forecast sales tax revenues for the succeeding fiscal year without the actual third quarter reconciliation.”

Fanslau also says the final pension bill won’t be received for 2012 until at least mid-October. “And, the final determination on whether the County will spend $18 million rather than $16.8 million on health insurance in 2012 won’t be determined until October 31, 2011.”

Fanslau concluded, “The development of the 2012 tentative budget is a fluid and changing process, but it is dependent on the results of the major revenue streams and expenses described above. Again, the foundational goal is to appropriate no more in 2012 than was appropriated in 2011, hold the line on the property tax levy within the property tax cap law, and minimize any reduction of services.”

Despite all the excuses, the preliminary budget should be released before an election so all candidates and a voting public can have some guidance. Other counties do that and so can we.

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