Note: Going forward I will provide updates about what is happening in Chemung County government every Thursday and will add other posts throughout the week as pressing issues arise. I am in the process of updating the Chemung County Matters website to include links to all Agendas, Minutes and other noteworthy items from the Chemung County Legislature as well as the Elmira and Big Flats Town Boards, the two municipalities located within the 7th Legislative District.
Things are certainly abuzz within Chemung County government as Chris Moss, the newly elected County Executive, along with seven newly elected legislators prepare to take office in less than one month. To this point Moss and his transition team (a list of members is found here) has largely operated independently from the new legislature, something that bodes well for the desire of many people for greater separation between the two branches. The overall tenor among the new and returning elected officials seems to be one of optimism, and I hope the bipartisan – even nonpartisan – attitude displayed by many candidates during the election season continues as we begin to tackle our area’s many serious problems together.
The role of STEG
One hot topic at the moment is the role that Southern Tier Economic Growth (STEG) plays in Chemung County.
According to its mission found here, STEG provides many important services to help foster business development in our community:
Southern Tier Economic Growth (STEG) does the work of many organizations, which saves you time and money. We serve as staff to the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency, administer the Elmira Empire Zone, host a satellite office of the New York State Empire State Development Corporation, administer local revolving loan funds, and share space with the Chemung County Planning Department and the Chamber of Commerce.
We pride ourselves on our follow-through, commitment, and flexibility. Count on us to provide all of the information you need to make your development or expansion project successful, including:
- Community profile
- Economic profile
- Wage and salary survey
- Labor force information
- Site and building information
- Empire Zone program
- Chemung County IDA program
- Maps and more
In addition, we can assist with completing applications, administering grants and coordinating zoning and other municipal approvals on your behalf.
The current issues surrounding STEG are less focused on what STEG does than on how it is funded. A true public-private partnership, STEG relies heavily on taxpayer dollars to fund almost half of its budget:
While knocking on doors last summer and fall, I learned that many people who live in the 7th District are very supportive of STEG and the work it does for our community. I also learned at a meeting last week that many municipal leaders from Big Flats and Horseheads attribute a great deal of their growth to the work STEG has done over the past decade.
Still, it is understandable that the public questions whether $272,500 annual payouts of taxpayer dollar money from the Chemung County and the City of Elmira is necessary, and whether there are ways to implement positive changes and/or cost saving measures.
One somewhat small yet impactful measure STEG could take is to invite at least two members of the Chemung County Legislature to serve as ex officio members of its board. This would allow the Legislature – the county entity charged with appropriating money – far greater insight into how our tax payer dollars are used and allow them to share this important information with the community.
Last Monday the Legislature’s Budget Committee voted to again spend $200,000 to help fund STEG, and the full Legislature is expected to vote on the measure at its December 10th meeting. It would be great to know what the public thinks. Is the expenditure a worthwhile investment? Has STEG helped you or someone you know with business in Chemung County? After reading STEG’s Annual Report (linked above), do you have ideas for areas it should address or other matters it should undertake? Is having legislators serve on the STEG board a good idea? What else can we do to foster greater transparency?
The 2018 elections showed the public wants to be involved. These are the types of issues where input from people with firsthand experience is invaluable – so please feel free to chime in!
The Legislature’s Budget Committee also undertook the matter of legislative salary increases last Monday, voting to give themselves a 3% (!) raise:
A 3% raise is completely unacceptable and irresponsible, particularly a time when our county faces such extreme fiscal stress, as our legislators would be paid over $18,000 plus receive full health benefits and the option of buying into the county retirement system. New York state lawmakers voted just today to give themselves a tremendous pay increase – a move that will make them the highest paid state government officials in the nation (see article here). To think our Legislature wants to also engage in this type of self expenditure is simply unconscionable.
Specific facts about our county are relevant. The average county legislator in New York state represents 22,895 people, while Chemung County legislators represent just 5,900. The charts below provides a direct comparison to other New York counties that have a charter, county executive and legislature.
The best example of how out-of-touch the idea of a 3% tax increase is Dutchess County where Marc Molinaro, the 2018 Republican candidate for Governor, serves as County Executive. In Dutchess County each legislator represents an average of almost 12,372 people compared to 5,900 for Chemung County legislators, yet they are paid just over $15,000.
Indeed, our Legislature should be looking at a substantial pay decrease just like Chris Moss and the other two candidates for County Executive said they would do for themselves if elected. There are a lot of things our legislators need to do, but paying themselves more money definitely is not one of them.
A medical school is coming to town!
This is not just lore. The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) is set to break ground (metaphorically, thanks to mother nature) later this month if all goes according to plan. Last week I had a chance to participate in a briefing by Dr. Richard Terry who will serve as the Dean of Elmira’s campus – and it sure does sound great for business and jobs in our community! Thanks so much to everyone who has worked hard to make this happen.
You can learn more about LECOM here.
It is infortunate that the new medical school did not hire local contractors or local architects.Loading...
President Donald Trump announced Thursday he was canceling across-the-board pay raises for civilian workers across the federal government, citing the “nation’s fiscal situation.”
“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote in a letter to congressional leaders……………if that’s good enough for the federal government, it’s good enough for Mr. Miller .Also one can’t help but notice that easily the most money paid to STEG go’s almost entirely to salaries , I would like to know what MR. Miller can claim he is responsible for doing that should earn him a raise, and why he should be able to vote for his own raiseLoading...
Elmira needs employment opportunities. Many people describe Elmira NY as a prison town and are discouraged with Elmira. It has been said Elmira offers an easy access to Mediciad services. It would be helpful to learn the facts. Crime, drug abuse and mental health concerns have been on the rise for decades in all counties, Elmira however, is known to be hard hit. Neighborhoods are disheveled and appear unsafe, who would wish to move here?Loading...
Is there hope for the beautification and safety of Elmira? Will government and citizens choose to stand united. Most people living in Elmira today do not know the wonderful city it once was and may not have the where with all to take notice for change. Too many say since the 1972 flood Elmira never came back, almost 47 years later?
Hopefully the newly appointed officials will finds ways to increase job opportunities and raise professional standards. The Medical College certainly will help. We must get out and vote and support the counties we choose to live in, or citizens will leave.
Thank you Christina once again for your continued commitment to keep the public informed. You have maintained this thorough effort throughout your campaign, and we look forward to this ongoing process of communication. The voters spoke loudly on 11/6 for change, and not simply change for the sake of change. A change in speaking out on the issues, a change in better enabling transparency, and a change in delivering information to the public. Along with a new county executive and six other new voices in the county legislature, I fully expect that balance will come back to our county government. This is a very positive and promising time for our community.
Regarding STEG, with nearly half of it’s budget coming from public monies, better scrutiny of it’s operations must be extended, and having elected officials from the county and city as part of the board makeup is an important change that should come forth.
On this issue of legislator’s salaries, it is time to seek a reduction. During my term in the county legislature, 2007-2011, I always voted no to the salary increase. Seeking a 10-15% salary cut would serve to communicate to the public that this body of elected officials believes that compensation is NOT as important as rolling up their sleeves to engage in the hard work ahead.
I wish good luck to all of our elected officials over the next four years. The community is depending upon you, and will be watching your efforts as well.Loading...
Chris, then why did he seek re-election to the County Legislature? Perks, that is why. He oddly admitted it publically at the Public Comment part of the Agenda, preceding that months Full Board meeting.Loading...
“A servant is worth his hire”?!? What other “servant” would be able to deem themselves worthy of a pay raise other than the American Politician? Who’s the real servant here?
Furthermore, if Mr Miller was so concerned about the time away from his business due to his responsibilities as legislator, perhaps he should have taken that into consideration before running in the first place. Or managed his time better rather than expecting county taxpayers to pay for it. Moot point now though, I suppose.Loading...
Dan is correct. Their charter is very outdated and Empire Zones gave way several moons ago.
We see in the outline that the City of Elmira has it’s own line, yet the other municipalities dont have their own budget lines. It would be helpful to see how much all our local govts have contributed as a portportial percentage of their budgets and how that has fluctuated over the course of say 5-10 yrs and the direct return in development to each municipality and tax revenue as a result of those contributions.
As you mentioned, legislators as non voting members and I beleive the city should have a member as well as it has a large stake as re ognized by their financial contribution, is a great solution to non representation as board members.Loading...
Will county taxes go up in 2020?Loading...
The work STEG has done is incredible. It is not easy to get businesses to establish themselves. They are presently working on 2 very significant projects and that needs to continue.Loading...
I remember when we Legislators accepted no raise. As a very active Legislator I felt my annual pay was significant enough. Much of my salary was returned through a very strong “Sense of Community.”Loading...
The chart that is provided shows that Broome County has 15 legislators and more than double the population of Chemung County while Putnam County has a similar population to Chemung and 9 legislators. It seems redistricting and reducing the number of legislators should be considered. Obviously this would greatly reduce the overall budget for legislators pay and benefits as well as align representation to current population levels. I am also hoping that the new County Executive will engage the legislature in a thorough review of all department head salaries as he stated during his campaign. Mr. Pucci’s Your Turn piece in the Star-Gazette on Sunday highlighted yet another instance of a department head retiring at full pension and then being rehired by the County at full salary in the deputy role. This practice has got to stop. Also, as Mr. Pucci pointed out, why is the new Treasurer starting at the same salary as the departing Treasurer who held the position for many years? I find these instances more concerning than the increase in the legislators’ pay.Loading...
Two things …steg needs to fix it’s mission statement the Empire zones for municipalities no longer exist.That language should be removed and updated to the current role that administers projects instead,Two I get annoyed when people complain about the salary of public officials..18k for a county legislator is not too much money unless they don’t do anything..If they immerse themselves than its fine. The key is to create a legisture that works hard and is responsive to the public.Christina I am confidant you will do that as well as others ..People will say look what they are accomplishing maybe they are not paid enough..Like the private sector salaries should reflect effort ..A good public official who practices fiscal restraint and introduces common sense legislation can save taxpayers tons of money and be worth their weight in gold in my view.Loading...
Are transition team members paid county employees? Big donors? Are the clearys. related? Are they Advisory only? Do voters have a say in this? What expertise do any of them have? Do Legislators have anything to do with this? Do they get health insurance? Retirement? Is anyone talking to the front line staff? Those providing the services? Those with years of experience?
I think STEG is doing great work. My only issue is the salaries of their employees?!? Wasn’t this the issue with Krusen?
I find it hard to judge salary #’s without some idea of how much work legislators do. Is it $18k for one meeting a month? How many hours do they put in? Are they required to attend all meetings? Do they go to any committee meetings? We’ve heard they can’t even talk to county employees about issues, programs, or proposals so what do that even do!? What is the value/cost of health insurance? Do all part time county employees get health insurance at that same rate? I’m not as concerned with the population ratios. If that seems to be a real problem why not cut the #? Do we need 15? Are we paying them to merely rubber stamp whatever the county exec proposes?Loading...
Thank you for this!!!!Loading...