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Editorial: Less bang for your buck

It looks as if the Great Albany County Budget Showdown of 2011 has come to a close.

As Alyssa Jung reports this week on Page 19, the County Legislature has overridden a veto by County Executive Michael Breslin, who sought to block the body’s $598 million 2012 budget, which carries an 8 percent property tax hike.

That’s less than half of what Breslin proposed for a tax hike in his executive budget, but certainly nothing to praise when it comes to bringing relief to some of the most highly taxed residents in the nation.

A lot of ink has been spilled about this particular budget season, a portion of it here on the opinion pages of The Spotlight, and regular readers will remember us taking county government to task a few weeks ago for living beyond its means for years and setting itself up for failure yet again.

Here we find ourselves about to repeat the same admonishment because this budget is not sound.

Say what you will about the outgoing executive, including that he spent years at the head of county government while this storm brewed and did not avert it. He still used his last weeks in office making an effort to shed the light of reality on this circus of governance. (Seriously, take the time and go to a legislature meeting and see how the people who levy your astronomical taxes comport themselves in public. From all the snickering and note-passing, you’d think you were in fourth-period study hall).

We agree with legislators and others who say this budget is too optimistic and not critical enough of county expenses. That’s not just because of the numbers but also because of a track record of being too willing to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.

The taxpayer will get a return on his or her investment next year. Residents will have access to services like sheriff’s patrols, highway paving and social support programs like Meals on Wheels.

They’ll also, of course, pay for a county-run nursing home that simply swallows great rafts of taxpayer money at a startling rate. It’s operating at a $20 million deficit that’s predicted to grow markedly in coming years, yet lawmakers plan to fix this issue by tearing it down and spending money on a newer, grander nursing home.

And let’s not forget we bought the services of our fine 39-member legislative branch for a mere $2.7 million this year. That’s quite a bargain when you consider how much money they’re playing with.

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