Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty (left) joins incoming county officials (left to right) Queensbury Supervisor-at-large Doug Beaty, Queensbury Town Supervisor John Strough, Queensbury Supervisor Rachel Seeber, Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, and Glens Falls Fourth Ward Supervisor Jim Brock for a chat after the five new county officials were inducted Friday Jan. 3.
In his State of the County speech Friday Jan. 3, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty said that providing more space for the county courts, repairing county roads, adding guards at the county jail to meet the state’s staffing requirements, and reallocating the sales tax receipts among the county’s towns, were top priorities for 1014.
Geraghty was re-elected unanimously by county supervisors to his position of county leadership, This is the second year he has served in the post.
“This really is a serious need, and we may soon have an additional judge,” he said, referring to the fact that state authorities are now considering adding a new Family Court Judge. “In 2007, we considered giving the courts more space, but we were scared off by the price. We can’t kick the can down the road anymore — we really need to expand the court space.”
For years, the county court system has been overcrowded, with inadequate courtroom, office, lobby and storage space, as well as lack of rooms for attorney-client conferences, and a lack of holding cells for prisoners.
Although the space problem has been recognized locally for years, it was brought to the attention of the state Office of Court Administration by a non-profit group that monitors the state’s courts. The state agency had plans to work with the county to create more space, but state budget cuts derailed the plans in 2011.
Geraghty pledged that the project to carve out more space in the existing municipal center complex for the court system would be tackled beginning this month.
He also indicated that the county was now on a course of financial austerity. He observed that in 2013 the county was not involved in short-term borrowing, had accumulated a responsible fund balance, was now engaged in multi-year financial planning, and continued to craft budgets under the state’s 2 percent limit.
He called for additional efforts in streamlining governent, beyond the measures that have been taken in the past four years.
“The operational efficiencies and cost initiatives make the goal of a zero percent tax increase possible in the near future,” he said.
He praised Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas, who serves as the county’s budget officer, for his work in trimming expenses and balancing the county budget.
“Not only has he done a great job, we are heading down a path that could lead us to no tax increase in the future,” Geraghty said. "We need to keep our eye on the ball and shoot for a zero tax increase for 2015."
In support of keeping taxes level, Glens Falls Ward 5 Supervisor Bill Kenny called for ramping up sales tax revenue predictions in the budget to make them more realistic, noting that 2013 sales tax receipts came in about $2 million over budget.
The county leaders should continue to advocate for the expansion of freight service over the county’s rail system, Geraghty said, as well as focus on accomplishing the proposed sale of Westmount Health facility — to avoid future hefty budget shortfalls, boost economic development campaigns, while ramping up efforts to curb invasive species, particularly in the county’s waterways.
Geraghty said it would take a bipartisan commitment to meet the challenges of 2014.
“I know we will continue to work together as a team to find solutions to our problems regardless of party affiliation, and make Warren County a better place to live and work,” he said. “Our county employees as well as the decisions made by this board will make the difference.”
After Geraghty’s speech about the upcoming initiatives for the county, Town of Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover offered his thoughts.
“Kevin is focused like a laser on the important issues that we need to address in 2014.”