Friday, October 3, 2008
|For Information Contact||
Oneida County Executive Anthony J.
Picente, Jr., today delivered his 2009 Budget Message to the Oneida County
Board of Legislators, noting that turbulent fiscal times require prudent
Picente called for actions to enhance
accountability and oversight, as well as to enhance the county’s ability
to deliver services that are needed by thousands of
Below is the full text of the
Members of the
accordance with the terms of the Oneida County Charter, I appear before
you today to present the proposed operating budget and capital project
plan for 2009.
we look to the future in a time when Wall Street is in unprecedented
turmoil and on Main Streets across the country, there is crisis in the
confidence that government is not capable of doing the things it is
entrusted to do.
budget I present to you today meets those challenges with the integrity to
maintain confidence in county government and to continue my efforts to
restore strength to
have made it no secret that this budget will require a tax increase. Last
year, when I presented my budget, I outlined a financial plan for the
upcoming years to stabilize the County budget. This plan included
tax increases to balance the budget and eliminate our reliance on the fund
balance. Since then, the fiscal situation of the Nation has
deteriorated and we must stay alert to the possible cuts that can come our
way as a result. All we have to do to see evidence of this is to
look at the wreckage of Wall Street. At a time when sales tax revenue is
roughly flat and state government is getting ready for new rounds of
cost-shifting, our long-term over-dependency on the fund balance has
created structural weakness in Oneida County and taking any other course
would be completely irresponsible.
would also be irresponsible to move forward without taking renewed actions
to increase the confidence of our taxpayers that
want to announce to you actions I am taking today to ensure that
confidence in our internal controls remains strong:
payroll function of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department will be
shifted to the Department of Audit and Control. An administrative
assistant position now in the Sherriff’s Department will be taken out of
that department and moved to the Comptroller’s Office to oversee the
accurate recording of the payroll and overtime for the Sheriff’s
Purchasing Department is now authorized to reject any purchase order from
any department that deviates at all from the items requested in the budget
process. A Principal Account Clerk position in the Sheriff’s
Office will be eliminated and the Purchasing Department will have a
position added so that we can strengthen our ability to act as a first
line of defense to control spending.
auto mechanic positions in the Sheriff’s Department will be transferred
to the Department of Public Works. This is sound management practice
because those employees work at the DPW garage already. This change means
that we centralize all vehicle repairs and preventive maintenance under
the auspices of DPW. Giving the DPW the authority and responsibility for
this added work increases our management control and increases efficiency.
will be asking you, in this budget, for $50,000 to conduct a policy and
procedure audit of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office to focus on
managerial efficiency. Future actions regarding purchasing and payroll
will be taken at the conclusion of that audit.
Public Health Engineer positions will be eliminated out of the Public
Health Department and those duties will be contracted out. This move
will save the County over $100,000 a year in salaries.
part of our continuing fight against NYRI, I have added to the NYRI budget
to fight this ill-conceived plan. $105,000 has been appropriated so that
we are better equipped to make sure this power line never goes in.
is only one position being added in this budget. It is for a Deputy
Director to Veterans Services. Looking at the numbers from the
Veteran’s Office in 2007 it is clear that another employee is needed.
is clear to me that we need to further tighten controls in all of the
County departments and as of today, we will do just that.
budget is a fiscal version of the vision we have for the
sought a full four-year term as Oneida County Executive so that I could
build a strong county that can act on its own, with the fiscal strength to
chart the right course for our dreams and our future. This spring, we
received a stamp of approval on our initial efforts when Standard and
are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the financial
markets. Let me mention two ways this affects
The state is projecting there will be a $3
billion revenue hole in the 2009-2010 state budget from the ripple effects
of the Wall Street crisis. We are already hearing that the next state
budget could trim between 6% and 15% from money shared with local
governments. That means millions in cost-shifting is coming our way, and
it will be coming long after this budget has been adopted. It’s likely
to get worse, not better.
With this new crisis, state and federal
priorities and resources are going to be focused elsewhere. If we want to
grow our own economy in this fiscal environment, we cannot expect
jobs. A better economy. Stronger communities. That’s the vision of where
we want to go. Today, the picture is very different – a difficult
economy, increased needs for county services, a very clear expectation of
cuts from state government and a time of stagnant consumer spending that
is impacting sales tax revenue across
many people, particularly taxpayers, the bottom line of a budget is
whether or not it increases the tax rate. This budget will increase taxes,
because increasing county real property taxes is the only reasonable,
prudent course open to us.
me talk a minute about taxes.
one ever likes taxes. But for less than $2 a day, this is the value being
funded through the Youth Bureau served almost 40,000 young people in 2007
through agency and municipal partners.
Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol responded to 12,760
complaints in 2007. The County Correctional Facility housed 4,487 inmates
Probation Department handles cases involving about 1,000 youth per year
Department of Social Services, working with community partners, put 1,151
Temporary Assistance applicants and recipients off the welfare rolls and
Office for the Aging Processed 5,789 referrals for information,
assistance, and home visits for aging and long term care services for
list can go on of the thousands of lives touched by the work
budget continues that mission:
will fully fund our commitments to our local libraries and the Utica Zoo.
will live up to our commitment to local towns by responding to higher fuel
costs and increasing the funding we pay them to plow county roads by about
will take pro-active steps to provide better service to the people who
need us by making long-overdue salary adjustments so that we can keep good
employees. One of the messages I have heard over and over from department
heads is that we can’t find or can’t keep people in essential
positions because they can find better pay elsewhere. In the past few
months, we have heard a number of requests for upgrades. This budget calls
for about $500,000 worth of salary upgrades for around 400 men and women.
Case workers and social welfare examiners are the majority of the upgrades
with the total amount being added around $400,000, including benefits.
These are the people who are on the front lines of providing needed
services to the people or who are an integral part of our system of
accounting for the dollars we spend to fight fraud. Their current salaries
are well below the comparable positions in surrounding counties and we
have actually been losing people to those counties, after they are
trained. It costs around $26,000 to train a case worker and takes
one year before they can handle a full case load. This is why it is
so important we bring their salaries to a more competitive rate and
therefore we can hopefully retain the employees after they are trained.
growth at Griffiss will continue. Our day-to-day operations this coming
year will see the full impact of our actions to privatize the FBO at the
airport – resulting in 6 positions cut. This, combined with new hanger
construction and the renovation of Building 100 for more growth at Empire
Aero, will not only help balance costs and revenue, but also create
mandated programs continue to remain a major factor pushing spending
higher. The Medicaid “cap” has ended huge spikes in costs, but our
Medicaid costs are still increasing by 3% every year – and 3% of $50
million is a substantial amount of money. Mandated programs such as the
Education of Handicapped Children and Early Intervention Program keep
piling on costs when the state reimbursements are becoming less and less.
As and example, our child care costs are around $1.5 million and our TANF
program costs around $1.7 million. As you can see, these mandated
programs add significant costs to our budget. In contrast, our
discretionary spending was only increased 2% for a total of $800,000.
can anticipate this situation becoming worse in 2009. As all of you know,
addition to using the property tax to help offset these costs, I will be
seeking a removal of the sales tax cap on gasoline. At the time the cap
was enacted, this Board wanted to protect consumers from a temporary spike
in gasoline prices. In all, 13 counties adopted sales tax caps on
gasoline. All of them have removed those caps for the same reason I want
to remove it here in
a time when the overall consumer economy shows very cautious behavior, it
is no surprise that sales tax revenue is roughly flat, falling even below
our own very conservative estimates. Statewide, sales tax revenue was up
1.1% for the April-June quarter. That’s a major concern, since sales tax
is the largest revenue item in our budget. We are projecting a very slight
sales tax growth in 2009, but we do so cautiously.
me be very up front with you. The revenue picture is even cloudier than
the spending picture because so much of the spending done by consumers
will be at the end of this year – long after this budget has been
adopted. The best projections we have are that consumer spending this year
will be below that of last year. We could take more money out of our
fund balance, cut the tax increase and make a budget look good on paper.
However, that is the kind of risky financial decision-making that has our
country’s financial sector in ruins today. I will not risk our financial
position on whether there is a good or bad holiday shopping season. We
must prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best.
am projecting we will transfer $6.8 million from the fund balance to
support the 2009 budget. This is one of the smallest transfers in recent
years, and is approximately $3.5 million less than what was taken from the
fund balance for this year’s budget. When
you look at the 8.9% increase in the tax levy, you have to understand that
6% of that increase is due to the structural deficit created by the use of
the fund balance. Not only does it reflect the
uncertainty of these times, but also the need for this county to stop
trying to cut fiscal corners to avoid a tax increase. We can’t keep
tapping our savings to pay the bills, or in two years there will be
nothing left. Without a fund balance sufficient to cover short-term cash
flow needs, we could end up needing to borrow to pay bills – and
that’s the type of bad business practice we should do everything
possible to avoid. It is already costing us far too much.
from this budget, you have before you a proposal from the
want to be very up-front today with the members of this Board and the
public. For many years, at many levels of government, when budget
realities get to the point that no one wants to face the truth, there has
always been a tendency to inflate revenue and hope for the best. The
of the issues I have touched upon today are familiar. That’s one of the
problems. The fundamental structure we operate within has not changed. I
believe we need to take a bold step to make changes in one of the largest
items in ours and every other budget – public safety.
want to build upon the work I have been doing with the City of
this budget, I am proposing that we create a Public Safety cost center to
do what should have been done long ago – start from scratch to work with
all of the police agencies in Oneida County to deliver police protection
at a lower cost with the same amount of protection.
our Capital Budget, we are continuing to make improvements to the Airport,
our roads and bridges, county buildings and we are also building a new
field house at
is the second budget I have presented to this Board. It continues the goal
that is the core theme of my administration – making
the coming weeks, I look forward to dialogue with you on this budget.
These are challenging, difficult and uncertain times. We must be strong
enough to weather these storms, not just for the sake or our budget or our
credit rating, but also for the sake of the people who have elected us to
make the tough decisions, to act with integrity, and to show leadership.