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19 Oct
2

Negative campaigning hurts the community

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2018 has been a great year for Chemung County.  With an unprecedented number of candidates running for local office, a much needed examination of how our government functions is underway. It has encouraged many serious discussions about who we are and how we can improve the way business is done in our community.

Unfortunately, the tenor of these discussions has recently begun to shift, moving away from a valuable assessment of the issues to personal attacks on the candidates. With divisiveness dominating political discourse at the state and national levels, we should try as hard as we can to avoid falling into a similar pattern here.

I believe anyone who runs for local office deserves respect, as I have learned firsthand (more…)

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12 Oct
7

Revised Tax Plan Raises More Questions

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Image: WENY

The following was post was submitted to the Star Gazette as a Your Turn editorial on October 12, 2018 by me (Christina Sonsire) and Tony Pucci, candidates for Chemung County Legislature.


On October 9th, we attended a meeting of the Chemung County Legislature during which it voted to change the way sales tax revenue is shared between the county and its municipalities.*

The issue of whether sales tax revenue is shared in the most economically sound way for our community has been hotly debated since 2013. At that time, Chemung County was facing significant fiscal hardships. Arguing that all municipalities aside from the City of Elmira had too much money in the bank, the County enacted a plan that took money from these municipalities in order to shore up its own finances.

The plan worked in part. The County was able to avoid a tax increase; however, many of the municipalities began to experience significant financial stress.

(more…)

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10 Oct
0

GUEST BLOG: Former City Manager and current legislative candidate John Burin discusses new sales tax plan

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Image: WEYI

The Chemung County Matters blog exists to help promote discussions about local issues. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect my own, but are rather shared here in order to provide information and hopefully stimulate ideas.

Last night the Chemung County Legislature voted 14-2 in favor of a new sales tax plan, with only Peggy Woodard (District 8) and Rodney Strange (District 15) voting no.

The old plan has been under intense scrutiny since it was passed in 2013 for taking resources from the towns, villages and City of Elmira, causing many of them to suffer fiscal hardships.

Numerous candidates for local office have strenuously advocated for a change in the way sales tax monies are allocated between the county and its municipalities, something that is undoubtedly part of the decision of county leaders to change course.

However, the new plan has many problems as well.

Prior to the vote, I offered comments to the sitting legislature about new plan as it relates (more…)

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04 Oct
20

Town Hall recap

On October 3, 2018, over 60 people turned out for a Town Hall-style meeting I hosted at West Elmira’s community Center.

(more…)

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27 Sep
9

GUEST BLOG: City Councilman Jim Waters explores the idea of a countywide police department

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The Chemung County Matters blog exists to help promote discussions about local issues. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect my own, but are rather shared here in order to provide information and hopefully stimulate ideas.

The guest blog post below, submitted today by Elmira City Councilman Jim Waters, a retired Chief of the Elmira Police Department, focuses on the potential creation of a countywide police force, a topic he accurately points out has been missing from much of the campaign dialogue so far.

My view is similar to what Councilman Waters suggests insofar as I agree this topic must at least be part of the discussion. As I have gone door-to-door in the 7th Legislative District, I have heard countless times that residents do not want to lose our police officers in West Elmira. I could not agree more, as having a law enforcement presence does a lot to discourage crime and promote traffic safety. I am a mom raising two young daughters in the Town of Elmira, and therefore fully understand why people feel so strongly about this matter.

(more…)

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27 Sep
0

Town of Elmira not immune from fiscal problems

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The question of whether sales tax revenue is allocated appropriately among Chemung County, the City of Elmira, and the county’s towns and villages has been discussed extensively over the past year.

Widespread interest about this issue is primarily driven by three factors: (1) the current sales tax agreement is set to expire in two months; (2) this November’s election features an unprecedented number of candidates for local office, many of whom have analyzed the current plan and offered opinions about ways to improve it; and (3) numerous municipal leaders have been outspoken about the plan’s negative effects on their entity’s fiscal health.

I set forth some of the recent statements by municipal leaders about the impact of the sales tax plan in a post last August, found here, and have restated them below:

*In 2016, Town of Horseheads Supervisor Mike Edwards attributed the town’s new tax levy directly to the sales tax plan, as shown here.

*Southport Town Supervisor David Sheen – named by Sheriff Chris Moss, a candidate for Chemung County Executive, to serve as deputy if Moss is elected – announced the town’s plans for infrastructure projects and buildings are on hold, and Southport taxes will likely go up in coming years as a direct result of the way sales tax revenue is distributed, as shown here.

*The Town of Chemung laid off its entire highway department earlier this year, a move (more…)

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24 Sep
1

Former City Manager and candidate for 9th District Legislator John Burin weighs in on sales tax issue

Below is a very thorough letter written by John Burin, a former City of Elmira Manager and current candidate for Chemung County Legislator in the 9th District, to every sitting member of the legislature.

According to his website, Burin sent the letter on September 24, 2018, in order to provide his views about a revised sales tax allocation plan recently proposed by Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. Burin encourages voters to read the letter and contact him with comments. A copy of the letter is found here.

I am not a voter in Burin’s district, but as a candidate for legislature – and, more importantly, a resident of Chemung County – I recognize how important it is for our community to have as much information as possible about this critical issue in order to make the best decisions we can going forward.

For me, the most pressing question remains unanswered: Why does the new sales tax plan call for increasing revenue to the towns and villages by 3.4% if, according to numerous presentations by Chemung County officials, almost all of these municipalities are free from fiscal stress and possibly even too flush?

In the event the towns and villages need relief as many municipal officials claim and a review of most of their budgets seems to at least suggest, and Chemung County has additional resources due to an unexpected boost of sales tax monies in 2018, then the legislature should by all means look for ways to help out. But, if they are in fact fiscally sound as County officials continue to strenuously claim, the new plan doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.

This is an involved issue. Thankfully a lot of people across the community are asking tough questions, as this is the most effective way to discover a solution that works.

Christina Sonsire

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Dear Chemung County Legislators,

I am writing you to request that the proposed sales tax allocation plan be tabled until January and a new plan developed and implemented that will enhance economic development and address City issues. I also ask that after reading this letter you take the time to visit my web page www.johnburin.com and click on my radio interview with Frank Acomb on 9/11/18 and also down load the pdf every_number which can be found at the bottom of my home page. I am confident that after visiting my web site you will have a greater appreciation of why in my opinion the proposed sales tax allocation plan has significant short comings.

(more…)

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18 Sep
0

A discussion of the issues on the “Frankly Speaking” radio show.

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I appeared on the “Frankly Speaking” show, a program hosted by local radio personality Frank Acomb, on September 18th for the third time this year. We had a chance to talk about many of the issues facing our community, along with some of our takeaways from the recent primaries.

Check out our discussion by clicking the arrow below!

 

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06 Sep
3

Sales tax presentation leaves many questions unanswered

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Chemung County Legislator Marty Chalk pleaded with county officials to find ways to improve their relationship with the City of Elmira during Tuesday night’s presentation.  

At a meeting of the Legislature’s Budget Committee on Tuesday night, Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen presented a proposal to change the way sales tax revenue is shared among the county, the City of Elmira and the remaining towns and villages. If approved by the legislature, the proposed changes would remain in effect for six years. A video of the presentation can be viewed here.

Background

In order to discuss the proposal, it is important to have a basic understanding of how sales tax allocation currently works in Chemung County. Most of this information can be found in a report by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) that was released in January, 2018 and can be found here.

(more…)

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22 Aug
2

*UPDATE: SALES TAX PRESENTATION ON SEPTEMBER 4th*

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Photo: www.chemungcounty.net

Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy Executive Mike Krusen will present their proposal for a modification to the 2013 Financial Restructuring Plan, also called the “sales tax agreement”, to the Chemung County Budget Committee on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 in the Hazlett Building’s 5th Floor Legislative Chambers located at 203 Lake Street in Elmira beginning at 7:00 pm

The meeting is open to the public. Anyone interested in the proposal is encouraged to attend.

Below is a blog post I published on the issue last week:

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Reallocation of sales tax revenue on the table in Chemung County?

For the past year, the question of whether sales tax revenue is fairly and sensibly distributed among Chemung County, the City of Elmira and the rest of Chemung County’s municipalities has been discussed extensively.

The reason sales tax distribution has been such a hot issue is twofold.

First, the “Financial Restructuring Plan”, enacted by Chemung County’s Legislature in 2013 to allow the county to take a progressively greater share of sales tax revenue from its municipalities, expires at the end of November. This means Chemung County’ s executive and its fifteen legislators have an opportunity make changes to the plan later this year if they feel it is necessary.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, there are an unprecedented number of people running for office in Chemung County in 2018, many of whom have been outspoken about the need to adjust the sales tax plan, as it has resulted in fiscal hardship to many municipalities. This, coupled with numerous municipal officials who have been equally outspoken about the plan’s shortcomings, has resulted in significant attention from the public as we seek to understand how, if at all, the plan can be improved.

(more…)

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