ISSUE & DEBATE
Editor’s Note: Mr. Frazier’s letter arrived after this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal had gone to press, and is published here so the public may review it before the first information meeting on the county manager position, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall. A second is planned at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the county courthouse in Cooperstown.
To the Editor:
I am about to complete my fourth term on the Otsego County Board of Representatives as the District 1 representative for Unadilla. I was recently re-elected to serve my fifth two-year term. It is an honor and a privilege to serve my district. “Thank you” to all that chose to vote for me.
I do not take the duties of the position lightly. A primary responsibility, in my opinion, is fiduciary. Safeguarding the money that our taxpayers send to Cooperstown is a fundamental obligation of my office. Thus, this letter.
Some of my fellow representatives have spent time discussing the development of, and job duties for, a “centralized leadership position” for Otsego County. By creating and filling a county administrator position, they feel the right candidate will be able to identify and fix any so-called “inefficiencies” in our county government.
They contend that the savings from correcting these inefficiencies will more than cover the expenses of the position. That is hogwash.
They are not being honest or transparent by only including $75,000 in the FY 2020 budget for the position. When fully implemented and funded it will cost the county taxpayers between $250,000 and $300,000 annually.
The administrator’s salary and fringe will exceed $180,000 and IF there is only one support staff, that position will cost over $50,000. While I will admit that government is not really efficient, I do not believe that we can find a quarter of a million dollars of savings year after year to fund this position.
The county treasurer and budget committee have consistently crafted annual budgets that remain under the state mandated tax cap. If there are inefficiencies, which I believe there are, the Board of Representatives should work together to identify, analyze and reform them. That is our job and what we all got a raise for in the 2019 budget.
Our county’s property tax rate is the lowest in the state, and as I stated previously, the budget has been below the tax cap every year since its inception. These are not accidents. They are the result of fully engaged, responsible and dedicated department heads and board representatives. These are NOT indicators of excessive inefficiencies. If anything, it would imply the exact opposite.
There are many other options that the county board could use $250k for:
- We could add three new deputies to our road patrol
- We could buy one new 10-wheel dump truck/plow for our highway every year
- We could increase our senior meals program by 30 percent
- We could provide three school resource officers for some of our many school districts
- We could increase treatment and prevention services to those affected by the opioid crisis
These are tangible, measurable improvements to the services that our great county agencies provide our residents. I believe that these areas are where we should be looking to increase our funding, not on another layer of government.
In drafting the job requirements for the county administrator, the IGA committee would like to assign the administrator the duties of budget, union negotiations, performance evaluations, long- and short-term planning, fleet management, purchasing and to help with the “day to day” operations.
Any board member who would support relinquishing these duties to the administrator should also be willing to adjust salary and staff in the departments where these responsibilities are currently completed.
The current county board membership is at 14, if the administrator is hired, it should be trimmed to 10 or 11 members and each member’s salary should be cut back to at least 2018 levels.
Some committees should also be eliminated. There would be no need for the Negotiations Committee, Performance Review & Goal Setting Committee, or the Strategic Planning & Technology Committee. If the county administrator will be the budget officer, then there should be corresponding cuts in the offices that currently handle those tasks.
I encourage you to contact your county representative and discuss this, and any other relevant topics that may concern you, with him/her.
EDWIN J. FRAZIER, JR.
District 1, Unadilla
Otsego County Board of Representatives