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 17th, 2013

Getting More Blood from a Stone

How do they get more blood from a stone?

That is what the Sullivan County Legislature has to tackle as they prepare to hit us with yet another tax increase to meet a never ending budget mess.

Acting County Manager Joshua Potosek has been busy at work putting together a preliminary 2014 budget for Sullivan County with many different scenarios. Although our crisis appears not to be as severe as last year’s, taxpayers can expect another property tax increase come January.

Potosek has been doing an excellent job at working the budget, but the question remains whether or not there will be a need for the legislature to override a tax cap.

The excuse this year for a tax hike is costs and expenses rising for such things as health insurance and pensions. It has been reported that the county could face a combined hit of up to $1.8 million because of health insurance and pension costs.

The foremost claim for the need to raise taxes still is state and federal mandates involving social service programs.

The legislature could dip into the reserve fund, slash services, or cutback on programs funded to balance our budget and avoid a tax increase.

But, why should any of us act surprised with any of this? We have nothing to offset tax increases.

We are a county that lacks leadership and direction.

While foods hubs and meat slaughterhouses make headlines – None of us can really expect them to turn our economic conditions around. Even the excitement of a water park being built by the Concord has been quiet for months.

Most of our eggs are in the Proposition One passage basket praying it brings us Destination Resorts.

Although I am one of the biggest supporters of this referendum – if passed – I’m afraid it might not go far enough for Sullivan County. We need more than one destination resort to be built to have any real dramatic economic impact. We deserve to have at least two! But, that debate will come if we are victorious on Election Day.

Realistically, we all know that things are not good in Sullivan County, and the budget is just a reflection of that.

According to recent statistics – Sullivan County has one of the highest poverty levels in New York State. We are one of the unhealthiest Counties, along with unemployment and foreclosures at record highs. Not to mention the spike in criminal activities such as burglaries.

But, despite all this, let’s not kid ourselves – We all know that there are some people in an inner circle in Sullivan County who are doing very well. These people work very hard at protecting their own self interests and lack any compassion for the hardships of the general public. These people are also very good at swaying many of our elected officials towards their own personal agendas and shady wheeling and dealings.

Although I am very critical with our lack of leadership, and dysfunctional government, there is an important fact we must face, and it has nothing to do with tax exempt properties either. It’s about mandates.

New York is one of only two states in the nation that requires counties to send locally generated tax dollars to the State for the Medicaid programs. The promise by state officials to relieve Counties from costly mandates has not been kept, and the County is forced to fund programs at the expense of local services.

More than ninety percent of our property tax levies are usually consumed to pay bills for the services that New York State requires to be provided on their behalf, and yet fail to fund the own programs.

The largest bill sent to Sullivan County each year is Medicaid. This single program is projected to consume well over $20 million, with cost increases each year by approximately $550,000.
New York State must join forty-eight other states, and to take over the full costs of Medicaid, and take the expenses off of the backs of the property taxpayers of Sullivan County.

No one wants to see property taxes increase, but no one wants to see our roads and bridges fall into disrepair either. We need to have adequate public safety and to feel safe in their neighborhoods. If the County is to maintain its local services, then New York State must assume fiscal responsibility for mandated programs.

Needless to say, we all feel the budget pain that is about to hit us.

And, the question still remains – how much more blood can they get from a stone?

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on 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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