The Lewis County budget has been located and it resides on the County Manager's desk. County Manager David Pendergast has been acting as the budget "czar", finally unveiling the budget to the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, October 22, according to this morning's Watertown Daily Times.
While the County Manager is the Budget Officer, it is unusual that there would be so little Legislator involvement with the budget at this late date. Legislators are usually brought into the process in September, listening to budget presentations by departments and asking questions and setting priorities. Now, only two weeks from presenting the Tentative Budget, the Ways and Means Committee made up of only three of the ten Legislators has finally been brought into the process. The Ways and Means Committee is chaired by Legislator Jerry King, famous for attempting to close the Croghan Transfer Site even though it was making money and for turning last year's budget process into a three ring circus. Now, he and his committee appear to be the only Legislators that have had more than a peek at the budget. Why am a grabbing for my wallet?
As it stands now, we're looking at 24% tax increase. The County Manager calls this "unacceptable" and that is an understatement. But what is as galling is the smoke screen process
that seems to be deliberately followed this election year.
What is to be done about reducing this onerous 24% tax increase? What cuts are Legislators going to make? Will it be like last year where vital services such as the Emergency Management Coordinator was proposed to be cut while keeping a luxury like the Trail Coordinator? What are the Legislator's priorities? What other taxes or fees will they attempt to raise?
Oh, we're going to find out early in November...after...yes... the elections. Taxpayers have a right to know what their Legislator's positions on the budget are and to be able to hold them accountable. How convenient that the entire budget process thus far has been kept under wraps in one man's office.
The Legislators were elected to represent the taxpayers and have the fiduciary responsbility of Lewis County as their main charge. They can't do either while willingly or unwillingly being kept in the dark.
The taxpayers and voters need to start demanding answers from their Legislators starting now. This undercover budget process is an affront not only to our pocket books but also to democracy.
It would appear that Board members that have opposition are hoping the clock runs out before having to make their budget opinions known to the public.
Don't allow this to happen. Get on the phone now, but most of all remember the dismal budget track record of each of these people, primarily Lucas, King and Hoch, each exhibiting misplaced priorities. Lucas can't seem to stop spending, the self serving motel study is a case in point.
In this case they can hide, the budget that is, ...and they can run, for office that is,.. but you can
find them and catch them on election day.