QUEENSBURY - Controlling government costs, seeking ways to cut bureaucracy and developing the county's economy are now top priorities for county government, new Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec said in a recent interview.
Friday Jan. 21, the county Board of Supervisors took action on one of these top priorities.
They voted unanimously to send a letter to state executives and legislators urging them to reduce costly mandates to local governments as they pursue a property tax cap.
Stec said that capping property taxes while continuing to demand that local government provide a myriad of services was dysfunctional.
"The state can't continue to shift all the costs to counties then complain about property taxes and try to cap them," he said, noting that 70 to 80 percent of the county budget was due to state-mandated programs. "This situation has got to come to an end."
Stec said that with a new governor and some new legislators now in office, the situation might change. "Hopefully, with a new set of eyes and ears now in Albany, it's an opportunity to bring home the message that the state can't fix its financial problems by passing them down to the counties."
Stec said that controlling costs to taxpayers and containing the scope of government were two continuing goals of his.
"We're now on a much better path over the past two years, and we should continue the work we started under Fred Monroe's leadership - finding all the ways we can of cutting costs - its extremely important in the prevailing economy.
Monroe, who is town of Chester's supervisor, was Stec's predecessor leading the county. He, Stec and county Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty led a lengthy campaign over the last 18 months to balance the county's budget by cutting waste and consolidating county job positions. The result was the lowest tax increase in more than a decade, although revenues have fallen dramatically.
Also a top priority for the county in 2011 is choosing a new railroad operator and negotiating with the company to do all that's feasible to develop freight and tourist traffic - both vital to job creation and economic development, Stec said.
"We need to do all we can to attract people to come to our area to both work and play," he said.
The last two objectives Stec identified for the upcoming year are also about county infrastructure.
The Exit 18/Main Street reconstruction project, under development for 15 years or so, may finally be completed this next year, and it's likely to boost retail development in the area, Stec said.
"This is a big project for both Queensbury and Glens Falls," he said.