January 3, 2011

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente’s New Year Address

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No year in local government is without challenge. That statement rings especially true for Oneida County in 2010. As budgets are stretched and the economy suffers, there is more of a demand on the services that Oneida County provides. As these challenges have multiplied over the past few years, County government has responded.

On the government side, as we begin 2011, Oneida County will do so with a workforce reduced by 140 employees. As a result of retirements and layoffs, the latter which could only have been avoided through union concessions that were rejected, we will operate County government with the smallest complement of workers in over 30 years.
We will continue to explore more ways to consolidate services county-wide, as we work toward the completion of the 911 consolidated call center, which can serve as the example that functions long performed by disparate levels of government can successfully be merged with savings realized by each municipality. We will continue to tackle the serious issue of sewer and water development as we deal with the consent order and the desire to control our own destiny on water rights and development.
As we enter 2011, we must continue to keep pressure on Albany to reform areas such as Medicaid and the myriad of Social Service programs that place an enormous burden on all county governments. Only through programmatic reform and a phased-in approach to have the State assume the full fiscal and administrative responsibility, will counties be able to relieve the property tax payer of the Medicaid burden. Only then can Albany enact the property tax cap it has waved like a flag at the voters for the last two years. In fact, if these programs truly get reformed and taken over by the State, property tax payers will see a reduction in property taxes rather than a cap.
These reforms and restructuring are necessary for this County to sustain and to prosper as we go forward in the next decade. The possibilities of growth are more than just a wish list. We are making tremendous progress on our site at SUNYIT. The activity and site preparation set for 2011 places this property at the cusp of emerging development. Success does not come to those who stand idly by. By directing County dollars from the PILOT payments of other successful economic development projects to this site, Oneida County is investing in true development that can bring more people and more importantly, more jobs to the region. We have a golden opportunity to become a part of the emerging center of technology that has transformed the Capital Region. We have the seeds here, in the many technology companies that began here on their own initiative or through the Air Force Research Lab. It is time the County got in the game. We cannot sit idly by as other regions prosper. We need to be true partners with the new Governor and the Legislature and inject Oneida County into each and every discussion that centers on technological development and growth.
All of this is possible if we act as one and not as separate and distinct government entities. I know that gets said each and every year, but it is necessary to repeat and for each elected official on every level from the Federal government on down to encourage and pursue. Take a look at how many communities succeed when they work together.
This is a difficult time for all businesses, the government and the people. We will provide the size and operation of government that people are willing to pay for at this time. As we strive to reduce costs and maximize revenues, we will use each dollar wisely to invest in a future for all and not one group or interest. We will continue to provide the services people deserve and are entitled to and we will do it with each tax payer in mind. As I close, I will do it with the same words as last year. Doing nothing is never an option.
I wish all of our residents a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year and the never ending hope of better times to come.
Oneida County Partners