56 Main Street
Owego, NY 13827
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Last Updated: Thursday, March 16, 2017
I am pleased to report the State of Tioga County’s economy is growing and our county’s finances are being strengthened through conservative spending and an infusion of funding from gaming revenue. Since the inception of the New York State Tax Cap, Tioga County has complied and kept taxes at or below the tax cap. Tioga County has historically spent conservatively and wisely maintaining a stable fund balance.
Working across the county, our economic development team has created jobs and brought in new business and housing. They are working with towns and villages on funding opportunities that improve our downtowns and help create infrastructure. Instead of losing jobs we are attracting new jobs and bringing in new business and housing to the area. This month we held our third Tioga County Job Fair with 90 businesses participating and all of them had jobs, some folks were hired on the spot. Our unemployment rate continues to stay at or below 5% and new businesses are spinning off from increased businesses development.
Due to the strengthening economy and job opportunities as well as ongoing case management, Social Services program caseloads were reduced in all benefit program areas. Specifically, there was a 3 % reduction in Cash Assistance cases, a 7% reduction in SNAP (Food Stamps) cases and an 8% reduction in Medicaid Cases. However, Tioga County continues to see an increase in Adult Protective investigations, a result of a growing demographic of elderly and vulnerable adults in our communities.
In 2016 the Public Health Department celebrated their 50th Anniversary with an Open House. It turned out to be a great day sharing the history of Public Health in Tioga County with many agency representatives from the community, past employees, and individuals in the county attending the event.
With the help of our County Attorney and Public Works we are continuing our efforts with the NYS Department of Homeland Security (DHSES) and FEMA to close out our last two Project Worksheets from the flood of 2011. Only two PW’s remain to be approved and payment returned to the county.
Several years ago the county began the process of implementing new financial software that touched every department in the county operation. Last year we went live with payroll and now we are in the final stages of completion. This program makes us more efficient and provides more timely financial information.
When planning for the future you can only depend on one thing and that is something is going to change. As I mentioned, change worked in our favor this year with additional income from Tioga Downs, plus there was an upswing in housing sales through new business development and more jobs.
Change can bring heartbreak and sadness when we lose our leaders through untimely death. John Scott will always be remembered and held in high regard as our Tioga County Fire Coordinator and we appreciate his many contributions to our community. We thank those who have stepped up to carry on his work.
Change also brings the retirement of critical leadership positions. Between last year and this we’ve had a significant change in leadership. Department Heads such as our County Attorney, Emergency Manager, Veterans Director and a Commissioner in the Board of Elections have or will be retiring. These are key positions. In the future we must plan for a smooth transition and preserve historical knowledge. The County is in the early stages of developing a Succession Planning program that will prepare us for those essential positions affected by retirement or job change. Education and training is a form of preparedness that will help keep the knowledge and skill set that is critical for the operation of the county.
The battle against substance abuse continues and last year we made a major change in our focus at the county level. The former Substance Abuse Coalition was struggling and I made a decision to bring the coalition back under county leadership. Together as a team, we refocused, and re-energized the program and started over. The Mental Health Department created an RFP and selected Trinity CASA as the new, alcohol and substance abuse counseling and prevention center for Tioga County. They have now taken a leadership role in the new Tioga County Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. The success of this coalition depends on community wide involvement. Community members, faith based organizations, government agencies, non-profits, and elected officials make up our working group. We are also working with other counties and government organizations locally and across the nation.
Winning the battle against substance abuse takes attacking the problem from many angles including Law Enforcement, Treatment, and Education. The District Attorney’s office is working with the Drug Court and that has proven effective in helping people get their lives together after a drug involved arrest. The Sheriff’s Department and Probation are actively involved in our coalition and helping us to understand the challenges that face addicted personalities. Counseling services are provided through our Mental Health Department for individuals and families for alcoholism and substance abuse as well as mental health issues. Our priority is to provide same day evaluation service. The Public Health department provided Tioga County Law Enforcement with trainings and opioid overdose prevention kits (NARCAN) which were used 16 times in 2016, with 15 lives saved.
Working together we will have a direct and meaningful role in changing the direction of substance abuse in Tioga County.
With the ever changing dynamic of Information Technology, small governments need to pay attention and insure our critical and personal information is secure and confidential. We have established an Information Security Officer and completed an Information Security and HIPAA Security Risk Assessment of our vulnerabilities. We are working on the processes and procedures that are needed to insure security.
The role of government is ever changing. As we look forward, I am concerned about the efforts of State Government to create more unfunded mandates for New York counties. We are required to provide more programs and services with no additional funding while staying at the Tax Cap. Consolidation and Shared Services is something we have done for years. Tioga County Towns and Villages work together to share services, highway departments and schools work together to become more efficient. We are always looking for ways to save money and I object to the thought that local government is the cause of high taxes in New York State. This is a Home Rule State but it feels like our decision making powers are being taken away from us.
The only way I see our way out of this problem is to become less dependent on the state and more focused on our efforts to create jobs and bring in more business.
Each year that goes by brings a new challenge for local government whether it’s from other levels of government, natural disasters or just daily life. We mark each day we serve and protect the people of Tioga County as a “good day”, a day to be proud and a day to be thankful for those freedoms and the ability to govern.