There are some things that County government does that almost everyone knows about. However, there are some “other things” the County does that aren’t as obvious or well known. Some of those responsibilities were covered at the November 14th session of the County Legislature. They will be described later in this article.
The session began with the Pledge of Allegiance. Former Army Sergeant John Plummer, of Belmont, led us in reciting the Pledge. John served from October 1966 to October 1969. He served in Vietnam from March 1968 to March 1969, including participating in the Tet Offensive. I commend him for his service to our nation, and his contributions to our community.
Nine resolutions were considered and 7 of them approved during this session. Resolution #259-16 established a full-time position of Third Assistant District Attorney, while retaining a part-time position of Fourth Assistant District Attorney. District Attorney Keith Slep proposed the changes as a way of saving money. By having one person fill two part-time positions the fringe benefits for an additional assistant District Attorney can be saved. If (at a later date) a person cannot be found to fill the full-time position, the additional part-time position would need to be filled. The next three resolutions represent some little known duties performed by the County. Resolution #260-16 involved the re-levy of returned school taxes. School taxes that are not paid are sent to the County to be “re-levied” on the January tax bills. School districts then receive their tax payments from the County. If property owners pay the re-levied school taxes early next year everything is settled. However, if the January taxes are not paid the County has footed the bill, and must go through a tax foreclosure to recover the money. Resolution #261 re-levied the returned Village Taxes and Resolution #262-16 re-levied the returned (unpaid) sewer district and water district bills. This procedure guarantees that schools, villages, towns and water/sewer districts receive the full amount of their tax warrants. The County assumes the risk for all of the other municipalities.
Resolution #263-16 authorized acceptance of maintenance jurisdiction for a parcel of land along NYS Route 205 in Cuba, for quitclaim to an adjacent landowner.
Resolution #264-16 involved a memorandum of agreement between the County and Sheriff’s Deputies Union. That resolution was tabled to allow further negotiation and analysis. Some legislators weren’t sure that its provisions were in the County’s best interests. Resolution #265-16 would have created five (5) new part-time Deputy Sheriff positions within the Sheriff’s Department. It was also tabled. Resolution #266-16 approved an agreement between the County and Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce for $80,000. This is to fund the County Tourism Promotion program. Resolution #267-16 approved an agreement between Allegany County and Allegany Rehabilitation Associates for a “forensic crisis counselor” to serve the County Jail. This agreement will save the Sheriff’s
Department and County thousands of dollars over other ways of providing these mandated services.
County government has become the preferred destination for many different federal and state mandated programs. There are some good reasons for this. The State doesn’t want to run all of its own programs on a local level. There are too many towns and villages to make it efficient to push those programs down to them. That leaves the counties as the intermediate level where most programs land. There are more than 4,000 towns and villages, and only 57 counties. Unfortunately, New York State only partially funds those programs. It makes counties pick up the balance of the cost. This places an enormous financial burden on counties throughout the State. This includes operating jails, landfills, prosecuting criminal conduct (District Attorney’s Office), E-911 Program, Public Health Department, some Public Welfare Programs (Department of Social Services), and most Mental Health programs. Remember these “non-traditional” programs, as well as the traditional county programs (such as Sheriff’s Department, Department of Social Services, County Roads) the next time you wonder why your county taxes are so high.