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Last Updated: Thursday, March 16, 2017
Below is text of the remarks given by the Chair of the Tioga County Legislature, Martha C. Sauerbrey, on March 15th, 2016 covering the efforts made in 2015 and laying out the County's goals for 2016. Click the attachment for the full State of the County Address.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to tell you about our accomplishments and challenges over the last year and give you a glimpse of the State of the County.
Change is a part of daily life and last year we lost several leaders and friends. We were saddened by the loss of former Legislators Dom D’Angelo and George Penney; and most recently Legislator Ray Case.
With the start of a new year we congratulated Bob Woodburn on his retirement and welcomed, County Clerk, Andrea Klett, Department of Health Director Lisa McCafferty and Legislator Dennis Mullen.
Tioga County is great place to live and raise a family. We have excellent schools, it’s safe, and it’s beautiful. This is our home, where we raise our families and hopefully enjoy our grandchildren. But for our children to stay in the area, they need good jobs, decent housing and opportunity.
In 2015 we celebrated Tioga Downs’s approval for the Casino License application; the arrival of a new manufacturing company, Crown Cork and Seal, $300,000 Main Street Grant for the Village of Waverly; and the ground breaking of Owego Gardens housing project. Tioga County is part of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. The Council received $117 million for 100 projects and URI (upstate revitalization incentives) strategies that will benefit Tioga County, as well as the entire Southern Tier.
Last year we reduced our unemployment rate by 1.1% from the year before. There was over $318 million in new investment, 813 direct permanent jobs and 1,300 direct construction jobs that were created and/or retained. There has been nearly $3.7 million in loans and grants made over the last year coupled with over $230,000 in private investment by our small businesses.
Our Tioga Business Services Team has been working together to bring jobs to our county, last week, over 900 people attended the second annual job fair with over 80 businesses participating. The efforts of the Economic Development and Planning Department, along with our partners, have brought and retained jobs, investment, proper planning, improvements and growth opportunities.
The Tyler Technologies Financial Management Accounting System (FMAS) Software Project has been the largest and most time consuming project we have taken on in several years, encompassing every county department and requiring a tremendous amount of staff time. All of our departments from DSS, to Board of Elections have been involved in the planning, implementation and training of this financial software project. Financials went live in November, payroll in January and HR is currently underway. This system will create efficiencies that will save us time and provide more accurate timely financial information.
The IT Department has been involved in the Tyler FMAS Project and will be more so as we complete training and stand alone. They keep our computers running, they manage our communications and much more. Last year we launched a new website which is much easier to navigate and contains more information. We also installed a new phone system throughout the county. The new phone system allowed DSS to create a call center for the HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) department. The HEAP staff now can log into the call center and take calls as they come in rather than only have one phone to answer calls.
We were successful in updating the County Security Policy and will follow through with the implementation in 2016. The Document Restoration project from the flood of 2011 was finally completed and documents are back on the shelves. Other FEMA projects have been closed out and we expect to finish the rest by the end of the year. The Law Department has been active in all of these projects along with many others including the bidding out of the new Jail Medical and Mental Hygiene Services Contract.
Since we can’t control Mother Nature, severe summer storms continue to create havoc with culverts and drain pipes and create problems throughout the county. Our Public Works Department addressed those issues and worked with Towns and Villages to get roads and bridges back in shape and safe again. Three bridge projects were completed and the Third and Final Phase of the County Court House Restoration was completed. The Department of Solid Waste continues to provide a safe and economical method for residents to dispose of their waste and to recycle items mandated by State law. As an added bonus more than 800 tons of tires have been cleaned up over an eight year period through a special donation from Upstate Shredding-Ben Weitsman.
There are approximately 4,000 veterans in Tioga County and our Veterans Services Department is here to serve the needs of all our Tioga County Veterans. Last year, with the help of our Real Property Department, the Legislature adopted a new local law, approving the Gold Star Veteran Exemption for parents who have lost a child who died in the line of duty serving for the United States Military.
We continue to provide quality services to the citizens of Tioga County through the Mental Health Department and the Department of Social Services. Our staff is committed to delivering services for people who need help, be it counseling for alcohol or drug addiction, providing food for the table, housing, or help with family matters. We provide programs to insure that the children of Tioga County have enough to eat and a safe place to live.
Recently we heard from a Mom who was part of the Healthy Neighborhoods Program; a personal health, and safety program administered by the County Health Department. Last year she had been given two carbon monoxide detectors that were installed her in home. As it turns, during the night a detector alerted them that the house had been filled with Carbon Monoxide and they evacuated the home. She called the next day to express her thanks for saving herself and her five children.
Our Public Safety team continues to keep us safe from danger and disaster. The Sheriff’s Department, Fire Bureau, and Emergency Management Office work together to insure our well-being. Increased drug activity has taken up additional county services and concern. Deaths by heroin overdoses have increased. This is an addiction that affects people from every walk of life. We just held a meeting to find out how the heroin epidemic has affected Tioga County and what resources we have to deal with the problem. Needless to say our resources are few and the questions how to fight it are many. We have joined the rest of the country in the fight against heroin and other drug issues.
Planning for the future is a big challenge because we are never sure what is going to happen to the financial markets, job scene or if there will be another costly disaster. We love the low gas prices however; it’s translated into a decrease in sales tax income for the county of 3.4% from 2014.
So let’s talk about the Tax Cap. Everyone loves the idea of keeping taxes low, including the Legislature. The public perception is that the cap is at 2% but the calculations presented by the State include, Pilot Receivables, previous year rollover funds and the Inflation Factor, our estimated levy is 1.5% or less. It’s great for the tax payers but with very limited fund balance to add to the budget it’s a challenge to fund day to day operations without cutting services.
For the last ten years, Tioga County has kept its Property Tax Rate at an average of 2%. 83% of the County Budget is designated for mandated programs. When State Lawmakers enacted the property tax cap they said mandate relief would follow. They capped Medicaid and reformed the pension system but they did nothing to lower mandates for the counties. I believe we have done all we can to keep our taxes down and now we need the state to keep their promise and give us mandate relief.
As we set goals for the future they are pretty basic! We will finish up with our financial software project, continue to provide needed services, work for new jobs, and keep taxes low. That is what you have told us you want and that is what we intend to do.
As Chair of the Legislature I am at county every day and I’m able to be part of our county operations and see how our employees go about their daily business. Our successes during the past year are largely due to the hard work and dedication of our county Department Heads and their staff. I am extremely proud of all of our employees, I’m proud of the work that we do here, of the services we provide to the citizens of Tioga County.
Thank you for this opportunity to address you today.
Added note: Each year I ask each department to provide an Annual Report to the Legislature noting their accomplishments. These reports are very informative and contain a lot of data. I encourage you to review the attached annual reports that the departments have presented, which can be found below.
Presented by: Martha Sauerbrey, Chair, Tioga County Legislature
March 15, 2016