Anthony Pucci, a member of Veteran’s Zoning Board who recently retired after teaching English at Notre Dame High School for over 40 years, offered his thoughts about the way business is being is being conducted in Chemung County:

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In her “Your Turn” opinion piece in the Nov. 26 issue of the Star-Gazette, Elmira lawyer Christina Sonsire shed some light on the deepening fiscal crisis facing Chemung County. She concluded her piece by suggesting that the community and its leaders recognize the problems and “start talking about them.”

Unfortunately, in his “Your Turn” response of Dec. 3, Chemung County Legislator Cornelius Milliken chose a different approach, erroneously claiming that Sonsire wants “to increase your taxes.” In fact, he made this false statement not once, but twice.

Nowhere in her comments did Sonsire advocate a tax increase for Chemung County. On the contrary, she wisely suggested that our county government recognize that serious financial problems exist and that these problems “need to be addressed.” Milliken’s response to the very important issues Sonsire raised was to caution readers to “beware the spectator at a workshop.” Perhaps we should beware the elected county official who chastised her for merely raising them.

In fact, Milliken has been aware of Chemung County’s fiscal issues long before Sonsire published her “Your Turn” piece. In a Nov. 14, 2016, Star-Gazette article titled “COUNTY WARNING: Chemung may need a future tax raise,” Chemung County Budget Director Steve Hoover stated in response to a question by Milliken that our taxes would likely need to go up in 2019. The reason? Our county continues to spend above its means year after year after year.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that our area — located in the middle of upstate New York’s struggling economy — has fiscal problems. What is surprising, however, is their depth. Chemung County’s General Fund Deficit is projected to be $1.5 million in 2019, another $2.7 million in 2020, and an additional $3.8 million in 2021. Furthermore, according to the Schedule of Indebtedness included in County Executive Tom Santulli’s budget, the level of debt as of Dec. 31, 2017, stands at $53.7 million.

Sonsire’s message is one of hope for the future. If we want Chemung County to prosper, she suggests that we, as a community, must recognize the problems that we face and work together to solve them.

What is Milliken’s response? He looks to the past. “Chemung County has a history of effective management. Let’s rely on that …” He invites us to look at the budgets for the past 10 years. One will not find the solutions that Sonsire and other concerned citizens seek by looking to the past.

Reposted with permission of Anthony Pucci