As he delivers the annual State of the County address Thursday Jan. 5, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec praises county workers for their work in boosting efficiency — and diligence in responding to 2011's devastating storms. Listening to Stec's speech are (center): Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek and (right): county Attorney Martin Auffredou.
Warren County made substantial progress in balancing its budget and developing its tourism infrastructure despite ever-greater financial pressures, the county’s political chief said Thursday Jan. 5.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec praised the board members for their actions in limiting the 2012 tax increase to 1.7 percent while doubling the county’s financial reserves to $7.1 million. His comments were made during the annual State of the County message delivered at the yearly organizational meeting.
“2010 brought improvements over 2009 in the county’s overall financial health, and 2011 saw this improving trend continue substantially,” he said.
This frugal budgeting both in 2010 and 2011 — with the smallest tax increases in the last 20 years — was accomplished in two of the worst years for sales and mortgage tax revenue and slashed state aid, he said.
This trend of budget containment was likely not sustainable, Stec said, considering that the state continues to mandate more costly programs while they are imposing a 2 percent property tax cap.
“Meaningful mandate relief is a must,” he said.
Stec also cited a long list of tourism-related accomplishments, which included signing railway lease contracts with Iowa Pacific Holdings, which launched the Saratoga-North Creek Railway. This new passenger rail service has enjoyed substantial success so far and is already sparking a revival in North Creek’s economy, he said. The railway is also moving forward on its aim of providing freight service that is expected to spur industry and create jobs, Stec added.
“The prospect of freight service and economic development opportunity both south and north of our county boundaries hold great potential for not only Warren County but also northern Saratoga and Essex counties,” he said.
Stec also praised county leaders for successfully negotiating with the state to substantially reduce its leasing fees for Americade motorcycle rally’s week-long use of Million Dollar Beach parking lot. The stiff charges they sought had threatened to chase Americade out of state, causing the loss of $42 million or more in revenue to area businesses, he said.
Stec also hailed the consolidation of emergency and police dispatch services during 2011 with the city of Glens Falls. Such intermunicipal cooperation will provide financial benefits for both the city and county, he said.
Progress on the environment and county infrastructure was also noted by Stec.
He cited the progress on development of the West Brook Environmental Park, which included demolition of the former Gaslight Village buildings as well as securing funding and developing plans for the park. West Brook park is envisioned as a promising tourist attraction while accomplishing its primary aim of reducing pollution of Lake George by filtering stormwater through engineered wetlands.
He also praised the county’s decision to commit funds to combat the invasive Asian clams in Lake George, as well as enacting New York State’s first invasive species law in 2011.
Stec also hailed county workers for their dedication and resourcefulness in responding to the storms on Memorial Day weekend as well as Tropical Storm Irene, which devastated property, infrastructure and roadways, particularly in the town of Thurman.
He also mentioned the completion of the Main St. reconstruction project, which included streetscaping, new sewer and underground utility infrastructure, plus rebuilding the road with an added third lane.
He also talked of how the county had reached the end of the expensive trash burn plant contracts, and were able to reap some income from the sale of the plant.
Stec concluded that frugal and appropriate allocation of finances would be the county’s main focus for 2012.
“We’ve done much solid work in 2011 in very difficult times,” Stec said. “With the help of the tremendous county workforce, I’m confident that we will continue to improve Warren County government.”