Tuesday's local paper had a bunch of spending and cutting stories. Some were so obvious in conflict with each other, it was almost criminal. In this fiscal environment, its incredible that our representatives in Albany are more fiscally prudent than our locals! Its fashionable to always blame Albany for new taxes, new spending, and a lack of understanding of local taxpayers struggles. Although Albany is at least attempting some spending restraint, our localities don’t seem to understand this time.
The latest State budget includes lots of local impacts. Possible disbanding of ORDA, or at least a $6.8million cut, closing of many local state parks, closing of Moriah Shock and Lyon Mountain prisons for a savings of $3.3 million. These are at least attempts by the legislature to help our budget problem at the State. There are of course billions other in cuts, and I don’t think the local closures can have anything but a devastating impact on the local economy. Somehow it helps someone feel better somewhere else in the state by saving a paltry sum up here. I believe the prisons are our hidden local economy, allowing many other businesses to prosper, and families to have the ability to live here. How about closing some big prison downstate where the employees have a much better chance of finding similar jobs? With such a small population up here, and therefore a much smaller employer base, it is significantly more impactful for the North Country than downstate for just the same cuts.
But, what have our local governments done to help out? Well, I’ve written about the travesty pulled on the taxpayers of Essex County when the Board of Supervisors gave an obscene raise (for these trying economic times) to the highest paid workers at the county. No way anyone else would do that, right?... How about the Village of Saranac Lake? Nathan Brown reported on the fiasco Monday night at the village board meeting. Somehow, they board members and village treasurer didn’t know how much of a raise village manager Marty Murphy should receive. It wasn’t a trivial amount. It was either $3,900 or $7,000?! For some reason, Mr Murphy wrote up his own resolution on how much he was to receive (on Christy Fontana’s urging). John McEneany claimed that the treasurer or payroll clerk should have done the calculations. This only seems to make common sense, as Mr McEneany said ‘ Unfortunately I have to take the word of the man who directly benefits’. This is true, but that’s not to say Mr Murphy isn’t a truthful honest man. In fact, I think he was actually right on the final total, which the village chose not to grant. As far as I can tell, Mr Murphy has done a fine job for the village, and they are in this situation basically because of their own ineptitude in giving Marty his performance evaluation. To make matters worse though, is the conflagrated reasoning for the raise in the first place. As in Essex, the reasoning is that traditionally department heads and managerial employees have gotten the same percentage raises as union members. Why? Am I the only one who doesn’t see the logic in this? Unions are represented by union bargainers. Usually, their contracts are multi-year. So, when the union contract says 4% for 2010, why do the department heads get them too? At least the union has cover, in that they spent time and effort and bargained fairly, and possibly the contract was from a different economic time. When we are in the worst economic climate in 75 years, how is it that ‘We get these raises because they did’ mentality still hold? This is the time for public servants to show they understand, that they feel the pain. But they don’t. They grant themselves outrageous raises because someone else gets it. how about one of the COs from Moriah Shock says ‘No, I’m not going to get laid off. I’, going to get a fat 4% raise!’ How do you think that will work? Huh? Tell their families whose main income earner id now pulling down 1/3 of his pay and has to pay 5 times as much for health insurance that you are getting a 4% raise because you deserve it because the union guys got it?
Finally, we have the school building aid. Northern Adirondack Central voters approved a 29.8 million dollar building plan. This was touted as costing little at all to the taxpayers….OF NAC! They pared out a little over 6 million dollars to build completely non-essentials. Now think of that. Closing Moriah Shock, Lyon Mountain and a prison in Butler, would save $3.3 million. But the State will for over something like 27 million to upgrade the school and sports facilities. Lets see. For the cost of the building project, we could probably save all the prisons, ORDA, and all of our State parks and have millions left over. How about we stop funding school building projects at 90% and more? At that rate, what incentive does a school district have to not shoot for the moon? How about 75% aid? Then school districts would start putting valid proposals in front of the voters, and they wouldn’t be building football/soccer stadiums at a school that has neither sport.