On February 11, 2019, the Chemung County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution allowing Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss to form a temporary committee to identify ways the county and city can work together to assist the city with studying possible cost-saving measures that could improve the city’s financial health and benefit the community.

The committee is comprised of eight individuals: Chemung County Legislature Vice Chairperson John Burin; Elmira Mayor Daniel Mandell; Chemung County Legislators Martin Chalk, Christina Sonsire, Scott Drake and William McCarthy; Elmira City Councilperson Joseph Duffy; and former City of Elmira Chamberlain David Vandermark.  

The committee has spent the past five months examining and analyzing the city’s current fiscal situation and has identified several potential cost-saving measures and ideas. This letter and the accompanying report set forth our findings.

Most fundamentally, this committee agrees that improving the financial condition of the city, our county seat and urban center, must be part of the path forward for our community. At the same time, we recognize the challenges the city faces, including a tax roll where 38% of the city’s assessed valuation is tax exempt, including important regional assets such as Elmira College, Arnot Ogden Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Elmira Correctional Facility, Chemung County’s government office buildings and courthouses, the Chemung County Nursing Facility, the Elmira Psychiatric Center, the Clemens Center, the Arnot Art Museum and numerous schools, churches and other not-for-profit entities. Each of these assets provides significant economic and quality of life benefits to our entire community, but the impact on taxes is borne solely by city residents. 

We also recognize that this is an important moment for the city. Many new development projects in downtown Elmira and a medical school slated to open in 2020 provide opportunities for economic improvement that we have not seen in decades. We must implement ways to take advantage of them now.

The hard question is how to do so. Chemung County and some of its towns and villages also have fiscal stress and solutions meant to assist the city must not unnecessarily impact those municipalities. To that end, we have made 10 recommendations we believe best serve our entire community.

There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of Elmira and Chemung County. We are moving in the right direction, but hard choices and a commitment by municipal leaders from across the community are necessary if we want to maximize the opportunities we have right now.

The committee will present its findings to members of City Council, the Chemung County Legislature, municipal leaders and boards and the public on August 6, 2019, in the Clemens Center’s Mandeville Hall beginning at 7:00 pm. We strongly encourage everyone who is interested in exploring these matters to attend. 

Hard copies of the report are being hand-delivered to all towns and village supervisors, managers and mayors as well as their respective boards today. They are also available now for pick-up by any county legislators and city councilpersons who did not serve on the committee.

A copy of the report for the public is embedded below and can be found on the Chemung County website here. Please offer feedback here, on the Chemung County Matters Facebook page, to me or other committee members directly, and, most importantly, by attending the August 6th presentation.

We have a real opportunity to change things around in Chemung County – but it will only happen if we all pitch in and work together.

-Christina Sonsire

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