PERTH – Elected officials served up plenty of discussion about the challenges facing their regions at a “Meet the Legislators” Breakfast on Friday morning at the Perthshire.
The event – presented by the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Project Action – also gave local and state officials a chance to talk about their visions for the future.
Regional and local representatives who spoke to the public included state Sen. Hugh Farley, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, Assemblyman Marc Butler, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland and Gloversville Mayor Dayton King.
“The complexity of what we are trying to do is enormous and it is a lot more difficult than people can even begin to realize,” Slingerland said.
The mayors explained the burdens the cities are facing, such as the cost for pensions, have forced many local governments to live within their means and narrowed their options regarding what they can spend money on.
“Certainly we want to stop spending, but when we do that it means we will decrease services,” King said. “All city governments face these challenges and I really don’t see it slowing down.”
King said the city has been able to not increase taxes the last two years. He is hopeful – because of a growing fund balance that is nearly at $3 million – Gloversville residents will receive a tax reduction by the years 2014-15.
However, King said he believes things are heading in the right direction in the city and it will continue to remain cost effective.
“I don’t know of a city in the state of New York that really has more financial problems than Gloversville,” Farley said.
Slingerland said most of the local governments could solve the problems they face with consolidation into one county government.
“I really think we could solve all of these problems with one county government,” Slingerland said. “There are upsides and downsides to that and you have to convince the population that is a good thing to do.”
Farley said consolidation of government and schools will be difficult, but it is something everyone must consider.
“There has to be some mergers and consolidation in the small rural school districts because they cannot survive and cannot provide the education people will need,” Farley said.
King said to increase jobs in the area, cities and towns must be willing to provide the land needed to businesses and include incentives to entice them to come to the area.
Butler praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo for what he has done to improve the state debt, but stressed the importance of increasing economic development across the state.
“Any of the changes or any of the progress we are going to make has to come through the economy and has to come through the creation of jobs,” Butler said.
Thane said she feels positive about how things are going in her city with a strong push for economic development and waterfront improvement.
Thane also said she hopes the Amsterdam council knows how important it is to invest in future economic development, because at this time it only contributes $7,000 to development.
“The city of Amsterdam puts $7,000 into our economic development and that is not acceptable, we have to compete,” Thane said.
King also discussed the housing issues Gloversville is dealing with.
In October, the Gloversville Common?Council passed a nine-month moratorium Tuesday on the creation of multiple-family dwellings in residential districts.
“I really believe we have too much housing,” King said. “More than 13 percent of the properties in Gloversville remain vacant and we can no longer encourage government subsidized projects that create more housing.”
Thane agreed with King. She said 85 percent of the housing in the city of Amsterdam was built before 1939, and Amsterdam would rather receive aid to help with redevelopment and revitalization of its housing.
Farley also said he is looking to help the farm industry that has been struggling. He said he is working to reduce taxes and remove the “red tape” that makes business for farmers difficult.
Tkaczyk said she too is worried about what farmers are experiencing right now.
She said that farmers aren’t getting enough from the product they sell to cover their costs. Tkaczyk said she is working to find ways to help their businesses be more successful.