STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS HIGHLIGHTS 3/11/2014
Areas of note within Tioga County in 2013 and 2014 goals.
Tioga County provides many services to the public such as the care and maintenance of county roads and bridges, election services, public defenders for those that cannot afford an attorney, health care clinics, food stamps, services to veterans, foster care and the list goes on.
The legislature works with department heads and staff to provide services in the most affordable way. It’s a challenge to provide needed services and keep the taxes low for county property owners. Even though we are organized, plan well, and run our departments efficiently, there are always unplanned surprises that come our way.
One example is the flood of 2011 for which we are still recovering. We are still dealing with FEMA and working on mitigation plans to prevent damage from future floods. Another unplanned surprise was the change in Medicare funding for rural transportation. We knew changes were coming but we were totally unprepared for what happened. The change came when the state contracted with an outside vendor to handle Medicaid transportation. The vendor chose to use taxis instead of our bus system. We are now in a position where we have to modify or cut the bus system or experience a 1.7% in taxes.
I will share an overview of 2013 as it relates to each area of business in the county.
In 2013 the Board of Elections provided the opportunity for a complete review of the street file database, which is the fundamental element in providing Election District integrity for elections held in Tioga County.
Managing important county documents is critically important and the Records Management Department is still in recovery mode from the flood of 2011. In March 2013 there was a major shred of 17,318 pounds of documents.
The Tioga County Clerk’s Office made progress by hiring Cott Systems as the new ERMS software vendor. The software is now installed, operational and is helping to make the department more efficient. A total of all fees collected by the County Clerk were 4.9 M, 3 M went to New York State and 1.9 M went to Tioga County.
In the Real Property Tax Services Department, Terie Huseby was appointed in October 2013 to the position of Real Property Tax Services Director for a six-year term. This department continues to produce tentative and final assessment rolls, tax bills for villages and town and county bills.
Tioga County Historian, Emma Sedore, handled 64 genealogy requests and completed her third book “Gone, but not Forgotten, History of the Ahwaga Hotel”.
As a service to our US Veterans, the Tioga County Veterans Office reaches out and supports the nearly 4,700 veterans in Tioga County. Last year they provided support for 511 individuals in 2013. The Veterans Office has relocated to the Health and Human Services Department.
The Law Department under the supervision of our Attorney Judy Quigley, reviewed 165 contracts for 2013, worked with the County’s Labor Counsel, Roemer, Wallens, Gold & Mineaux and the Personnel Department in matters relating to the administration of the civil service, personnel related challenges, benefits administration issues and the administration of labor contracts and grievances. All of this while continuing to address issues surrounding the 2011 flood including document recovery, insurance issues, audit of clean up bills, and processing of FEMA paperwork.
William Kenville came on board on August 26th, 2013 as our Safety Officer and went to work immediately addressing numerous issues and making sure we are safe in our work environments.
Kirk Martin was elected District Attorney in November 2013 for a four-year term and took office on January 1, 2014. Previous to that on November 7, 2013 the Defense in the Calvin Harris murder conviction served and filed a Motion for Change of Venue with the New York State Appellate Division which creates a challenge for the future. In 2013, the District Attorney’s Office had 126 County Court Indictments and Superior Court informations filed.
In 2013, the Public Defender’s Office covered 1,816 cases for Drug Treatment Court, Felony, and Violations/Misdemeanor and Parole Hearings. Looking to 2014 we have Mari Townsend coming on as the new Family Court Public Defender.
Health and Human Services
Tioga County’s Health and Human Services Departments provide valuable services to the citizens of Tioga County. The Department of Social Services Preventive Unit provided direct preventive services to 70 families with 165 children. There were 10 admissions to foster care and 14 discharges from foster care. The Department of Social Services reported local revenues and recoveries totaled approximately 1.3 M. Medicaid recoveries from accident settlements, estates, and liens totaled $418,797, an increase of $181,729 (77%). Child Support Enforcement Unit collected 5.6 M for children in Tioga County.
The Federally funded HEAP Unit processed 7,876 benefits to customers totaling 3.8 M for the 2012-2013 seasons. This is an increase in HEAP benefits of almost 32%, but a decrease of almost 17% in benefits processed from the previous year.
Our Mental Health Clinic provided 15,499 services to citizens of Tioga County. The Mental Hygiene Department purchased new electronic healthcare record/billing software so that we are in compliance with the Affordable Care Act requirements.
Tioga County Alcohol and Drug Services continue to be the primary provider of outpatient and alcohol services within the County. During 2013, a total of 6,169 services were provided to individuals.
Tioga County welcomed James Rich, MPH, as he was appointed to Tioga County as Public Health Director effective November 12, 2013. Health Educators facilitated the 2014-2017 Community Health Assessment and the Community Health Improvement Plan. Lasts year the Health Department held the largest car seat event in the region for National Child Passenger Safety Week.
Tioga County Employment Office. Long term unemployment benefits, which extended unemployment benefits from the regular 26 weeks to up to 99 weeks, were discontinued as of 12/31/13. The annual unemployment rates in Tioga County decreased in 2013 to 7.9%.
Transportation, Tioga County Bus Transportation System. The Governor’s Medicaid Redesign plans kicked in late last year regarding transportation for Medicaid beneficiaries. The state secured an outside vendor to arrange transportation, and took away local control from the counties. Medicaid recipients used our bus transportation to go back and forth for their appointments and now those Medicaid recipients are being transported by taxi, not by bus. Therefore the funding Tioga County received to provide transportation has gone away and we are now responsible for funding the bus system. The contract with our transportation provider also ran out this year, the county went out for bids as required by law and First Transit secured the bid.
Information Technology Department
2013 was a year of significant change affecting the County’s Information Technology Department. Douglas Camin was appointed the permanent Director in November. Several significant technology projects were undertaken, including upgrade and replacement of approximately 75% of the county’s desktop and laptop computers; redistributing many servers of the County to better prepare for any network failures and placing key servers in every building.
The Legislative Office completed the Journal of Proceedings which are the minutes and official resolutions for the county for 2013 and they are posted on the County website. Staff continues to help with the education and transition of the new county chair.
The Personnel Department conducted 36 Civil Service Examinations in which 246 candidates participated. This was the 2nd year the County had the high deductible health insurance and health reimbursement accounts in place for over 300 employees.
The safety of Tioga County Citizens is of upmost concern for county leaders. We are pleased that our Public Safety departments work together to ensure the safety and security of our residents.
The Road Patrol Division recorded 402,607 miles of patrol, and handled 8,733 calls for service. The total number of calls-for-service comprised of 45,417 for police related incidents and 8,101 were calls for EMS or Fire services.
Stop DWI operational costs came in 11% under budget with expenditures totaling $101,787.54 for 2013. Revenues from fines collected totaled $88,097.22. The Coroner’s Office handled 62 cases in 2013.
The ATI Weekend Work Program conducted by Public Safety performed more than 2936 hours of community service labor during 2013. The Civil Office received and disbursed $767,998.73 during the year; a 41.5% increase from 2012, $189,890 in bail money was received and disbursed. The Division earned $62,308.64 in revenue, a 1.5% increase from 2012.
Pistol permit transactions increased 32% from 2012, a total of 1,536. Since 2011, the program has realized a 73% increase in transactions.
In the Probation Department officers completed 292 Investigations which were ordered during 2013 by the 18 courts serviced by the Probation Department. Probation collected $67,966 in restitution, designated surcharges, and DWI Supervision fees, and disbursed to Tioga County government and crime victims.
The Bureau of Fire and EMS Services total calls were up slightly again from the past year. In 2013 there were 8,101 calls for service. Good news regarding grants, the Bureau of Fire received a 2.3 Million interoperable communications grant to enhance infrastructure of the aging County Public Safety Communications System.
Emergency Management Office. The Emergency Management Office testified before the Governor’s Mooreland Commission on NYSEG response for major disasters on 4/22/2013. The Chair of the Legislature completed the mandatory training for the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
Public Works Department
The Department of Public Works maintains our buildings, keep our roads and bridges secure. In 2013 the Department of Public Works managed the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge construction using 100% FHWA emergency funds stemming from the Topical Storm Lee flood.
Buildings & Grounds Dept. constructed a new entry/waiting area for Mental Health, new offices for STIC, new storage room for Information Technology, and reconditioned an office for the new Assistant Public Defender.
Recycling. Recycling revenues went up by 67.3%. The sixth annual tire and scrap metal collection program was held in 2013 and there have been more than 600 tons of tires cleaned up and properly disposed of since its inception.
Economic Development and Planning.
We look to the Economic Development and Planning Department to bring jobs and create opportunity for Tioga County. July 2013 brought a change in leadership to the Economic Development and Planning Department. LeeAnn Tinney with sixteen years of experience at the Tioga County Industrial Development Agency took over as Director of the Department. Since that time, she and her staff are actively pursuing new opportunities for Tioga County.
They secured $1 M for site preparation and infrastructure expansion to the Tioga County Industrial Development Agency owned E-Site on 434 in the Village of Owego.
On the Western end of the county Tioga County ED&P Assisted Rynone Manufacturing to help keep the longstanding Tioga County based business at their current locations in the Town of Barton and Village of Waverly.
As a priority, work is being done to support Tioga Downs in their efforts to obtain the Southern Tier Region gaming license. Last fall they helped Tioga Downs in their efforts to promote Proposition One, the amendment to the New York State Constitution to allow table gaming.
- Worked with the Town of Nichols, Village of Owego, and Town of Tioga to complete Long Term Community Recovery strategies.
- Facilitated the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program involvement for the Town of Nichols, Village of Nichols, Town of Owego, Village of Owego, and Town of Tioga.
- Assisted the Town of Nichols in the sale of 15 acres and extension of existing water/sanitary sewer for the construction of the Army Reserve Training Center located in Lounsberry.
Financial news for the County.
The County’s financial reporting received a clean audit from our independent auditors. Although the County Sales Tax collections were down 4.98%, collections exceeded the prudent budgeted amount. The annual summer auction of tax foreclosed properties produced winning bids of $910,000. After recovering the $205,000 in back taxes, the auction closings produced a surplus of $700,500 to the county’s general fund.
Last August the Treasurer bonded 9.9 M at a low interest rate of 2.27%. The 10-year debt issuance will pay for capital fund infrastructure improvements to a dozen bridges and an energy savings project including two new roofs in 2014.
General fund appropriations came in at 67.362 M, down from 2.1 M from 2013, and revenue was set at 44.655 M, down 1 M from 2013.
In the 2014 budget the appropriated fund balance was reduced from 2.956 M to 1.5 M to reduce taxes.
FEMA and insurance reimbursements continued in 2013 with the county recovering close to 95% to date of the 4.8 M in various damages from the 2011 flood of county assets by over 1 M. 4.9 M in sales tax dollars was distributed to towns and villages.
Challenges for 2014.
2014 has brought us several challenges. Working with our experienced department heads and staff the legislature is working with other rural counties to resolve the rural bus transportation issue. We are looking to Albany for some relief and restore the former funding for our bus system. We fear that if that does not happen, Tioga County will not be able to pay for a bus transportation system. We are looking at many options and working to make the best decisions for the Tioga County Citizens
We are also concerned about the Governor’s Property Tax Freeze Proposal. As it stands now we fear that the process of implementing this program lies heavily with the county, requiring extra staff hours to implement the program over the next few years. There are many unanswered questions to this project and the information is confusing.
We Are Working On Good News.
The FMAS – Financial Management Accounting System Project is now underway. We have secured Jeff Morgan from Evolve to help us with our RFP, request for proposal, to purchase new financial software for the county. This is expected to be a two year project that should bring more efficiency and help our departments run more effectively. This is a badly needed upgrade and I am pleased that we are off to a good start.
More activity for 2014 include: Continue to work on space allocation and place Departments in the most efficient and practical spaces.
Tioga County Public Works has an ambitious program this year including the reconstruction of as many as eight (8) bridges including the E. River Road Bridge at Kirby Park in Nichols.
We look for new opportunity for the E-Site on 434 in the Village of Owego as we begin construction on that property.
Tioga County will benefit by the Southern Tier Network 5 M project that will extend the dark fiber backbone into Tioga and Broome Counties from Steuben and Chemung Counties.
Property improvements will be completed in the Village of Waverly under the $137,000 Rural Area Revitalization Program Grant
NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program priority projects will be underway and the Ag and Farmland Protection Plan update will be complete.
We look forward to The Army Reserve Facility opening in the spring. They are located in Lounsberry in the Town of Nichols and will be in operation in 2014.
The County will also be doing 1 M of flood mitigation work in our Owego County Office Building, a $350,000 improvement project at the Court House and a 2 M energy project including new roofs at the Public Safety Building and County Office Building.
In closing…Running county government takes a team effort.
Thank you to our dedicated employees, professional staff, directors, and hardworking legislators who work together to get positive results. I look forward to making progress this year, and along with my fellow legislators, we expect to make good decisions and do the right thing for our Tioga County Citizens.