On April 7, the Niagara County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution "authorizing the county manager to begin the process of restructuring all Niagara County departments due to proposed funding cuts to New York State programs proposed by Governor David A. Paterson, and due to the proposed receipt of federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." Fair enough, having a plan in place for contingencies cannot be a bad thing.
What's somewhat befuddling is the "restructuring" that County Manager Greg Lewis has identified. While some may have merit, others are cause for concern. For example, as part of his "restructuring", Lewis wants to adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to be dedicated to his $60 million+ campus concept. In other words, his plan for restructuring calls for a multi-million dollar tax on homeowners of this county.
Other recommendations may meet with some opposition as well. His idea to transfer all county parks to the towns will be challenging as the towns will likely not want to take ownership of the parks.
He also wants to increase the "recordation fees" with revenues to be allocated to the public works facility. If simply raising taxes is being presented as "restructuring", we don't need him or the position. Garnering a share of the cell phone tax from the Sheriff's Department - good luck with that one. And asking all other jurisdictions in the county to use the county's communications center will never, ever happen.
Lewis' full list of restructuring recommendations follows:
- Replace the 5 standing committee process with a committee of the whole process with the committee of the whole to meet the Tuesday prior to each regular County Legislature meeting.
a. The committee of the whole meeting agenda to be divided into segments with each segment to be devoted to a core tier (i.e., CSS, CS, PW, ED, and ADM)
b. The tier segments within the committee meetings to be presided over by Tier Chairs/Vice Chairs
c. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office to provide support, staff, and recordation for the committee of the whole meetings
d. A robust meeting, agenda, resolutions, minutes, and other documentation software program to be implemented to support all Legislature meetings.
· Realign mail room and print shop to be under the management of the Office of Management & Budget.
· Realign the support and staffing for coroners to no longer be provided by the Clerk.
· Implement the Public Works Facility to centralize and consolidate the Public Works operations.
· Realign the Office of Weights and Measures to be under Public Works.
· Implement the Homeland Security and Management Director position/Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management per the Administrative Code.
· Transfer all County parks to the Towns in which they are located and provide Greenway funding to the towns to assist in funding park operations.
· Adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.
· Adopt increased recordation fees with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.
· Institute having a share of cell phone usage sales tax go to the County to fund Sheriff’s Communications Center.
· Promote all other jurisdictions within Niagara County using the Niagara County Communications Center.
· Implement the Niagara County Communities Comprehensive Plan.
· Immediately set aside remaining casino revenue to offset property tax used to fund the Economic Development Department in the 2011 County Budget.