Consolidating Governments Is About More Than Just Saving Money

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Democrat & Chronicles.

Charles ZettekConsolidating local governments in New York is a hot topic across the state.  Proponents maintain consolidation is a way to make local governments more efficient and less costly.  Opponents argue that services will be cut, local representation will be lost, and savings will be minimal at best.  Every week, I receive calls from local government officials across upstate  asking what is involved in studying how to share or consolidate services.  Almost invariably, the caller starts out by saying, “I’m not necessarily in favor of dissolving or consolidating, but I feel it is my responsibility to the taxpayers to look at every avenue to reduce our local taxes.”

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Something’s Gotta Give: New York in Crisis

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.

Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.

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In the future, Rochester NY is a community where “we’re on our own”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester City Newspaper.

Kent GardnerThe Rochester community confronts problems that will test the mettle of our leaders in coming decades. Our core challenges persist and others will emerge, yet help from external sources will become scarce. We are thrust back on our own devices, thus on the ability of our leaders to forge community solutions to community problems.

The City of Rochester will continue to struggle with its central economic problem: too many school dropouts and too many graduates who are ill-prepared for further schooling or a career. There is no challenge more difficult or more important.

  • Students who leave school without the tools to earn a living for themselves and their families face a lifetime of struggle.
  • The economy trades a contributor for a dependent.
  • The city’s economic vitality will be limited by an ill-trained workforce and a crime rate that is fueled by desperation, resentment, and disillusionment.

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Unlock possibilities – new uses for buildings that parishes no longer need

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Albany parishes should find other uses for buildings after churches close

Bethany WelchRestructuring. Consolidation. Mergers. And now, layoffs. Those words have been used to describe the current state of affairs in the area’s Roman Catholic churches. Last week Bishop Howard Hubbard previewed the pain to come. He said that about 20 percent of the 190 worship sites will close or be reorganized across the 14 counties that make up the Diocese of Albany. Some of the lay staff who work at the parishes involved might lose their jobs. The decision on which churches will close is expected this weekend, but it is likely that urban parishes will suffer the most.

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Inspired employees could pay off

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Bethany WelchAngela DiNiscoGov. David Paterson wants state government to do more with less.

The rumblings started as early as March when the annual budget was completed. Then, last week, Budget Director Laura Anglin asked agencies to prioritize programs and match them to agency purpose, and allocate staffing accordingly. Presumably, this information will be used by the Budget Division to prepare for the Legislature’s mid-August emergency session.

Paterson’s alarm bell will have a familiar ring in state agencies Not so long ago, then-Budget Director John Cape asked agency heads to provide a one-page list of their top three strategic priorities for the 2005-06 budget. Certainly across-the-board cuts are easier for the Division of the Budget to administer, but taxpayers deserve better. Some state functions are more important than others and the cutbacks should reflect conscious priorities. Some cutbacks save more money than others. As an example, when state expenditures are partially funded by the federal government, cutting state staff can actually cost money if federal reimbursement is affected.

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The Message with Sizzle

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

The people who work in Albany will now be running from Albany to run for reelection.

Many from our region believe they are coming with good news in hand.

Assembly member Susan John proudly touts that she “delivers for Rochester.” She worked to get more state aid to the city and to the City School District.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle talks about how – as chairman of the  Assembly Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development, he’s “pleased that the Legislature approved $36 million for the multi-venue performing arts component of Rochester’s Renaissance Square project, as well as $5 million
for the construction of PAETEC Park, the new home of the Raging Rhino’s soccer

Senators Joe Robach, George Maziarz and Jim Alesi are thrilled to report that the budget has $15 million in aid to assist in the construction of a new student recreation center/multipurpose field house at SUNY Brockport.

Hey, even Governor George Pataki – the man who fumed about the veto overrides that kept in place a fatter state budget – is fine with taking credit for approving $26.5 million for school construction in Rochester.

Heck, you don’t get a guy like Pataki or, say, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver out to town on an announcement that Medicaid has been reformed. It’s much easier to announce a tangible item paid for by New York State aid (otherwise known as your money). Just a few years ago, for example, it was the announcement of the state aid for the Fast Ferry that brought Silver here.

And, by golly, it was an announcement of state aid that got Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to downtown Rochester in 2004.

I had a colleague who gave this advice when making any kind of presentation: Make sure it has sizzle.

To New York State lawmakers, it is the doling out of state money for projects and to local governments that “has the sizzle.” They believe this is what sells to the voter.

It put me in mind of something written by Jay Gallagher, the Albany Bureau chief for Gannett News Service. He posed a few questions in his column a few weeks back. Among them:

How can state lawmakers  hold down taxes by increasing spending well beyond inflation? How come we keep hearing that the state debt is huge, yet we still borrow more?

Aren’t these good questions to pose to state lawmakers when they start on the road to reelection? Don’t these have “sizzle?”