Rensselaer County is Strong, Growing and Ready for the Future, Says County Executive Steve McLaughlin in State of the County Address to Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin gave a positive and energetic State of the County address to the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, noting recent success by the county and focusing on new goals and ideas.
The county has adopted two budgets that have each lowered the county tax rate, with each earning unanimous support from county legislators. The county’s bond rate has been upgraded for the first time in a decade, and the upgrade gives the county its highest rating.
Along with the financial strength, the county is experiencing record job creation with the expansion of Regeneron and development of the Amazon project in Schodack. County sales tax is performing strongly.
McLaughlin said there is considerable interest in the county based on these recent successes.
“I believe these are historic times in Rensselaer County, and that 2020 will be an important year for our great county. It’s here in Rensselaer!”
“In fact, it is my hope that today you will all recognize the progress being made in our county and help us broadcast the message that Rensselaer County is the place to look for investment, innovation and invention. That Rensselaer County is becoming a leader in our region and upstate. Let’s work together to make this an historic year and one that continues our recent work and the proud tradition of economic expansion started centuries ago in Rensselaer County and Troy,” said McLaughlin.
“We have accomplished a great deal, particularly when there is cooperation and a shared effort, and expect more progress and success in the new year.”
The county has generated savings for personnel, purchasing and insurance during each of the two years of McLaughlin’s service as County Executive.
“During my first budget in 2019, we paved 34 miles of roads. Next year, in 2020, we are on track to pave about 38 miles of roads, the most done in the county in more than two decades. We recognize the importance of a quality road network, and how well-maintained roads help quality of life and economic development in our county,” said McLaughlin.
“We have been able to reduce taxes and appropriate more for roads thanks to careful and accurate budgeting and a continued emphasis on reduction of expenses. In 2018, my team generated $1 million in personnel savings, and $600,000 in purchasing savings, along with $500,000 in health insurance and other savings. We are also on track for positive results on savings in personnel and purchasing again in 2019. Again, stay tuned.”
The county has been able to avoid adding any general obligation debt during the past two years, during McLaughlin’s service, and is undertaking improvement and expansion of other county services. The county will be starting work to develop a new emergency training tower, after more than a decade of stops and starts on the project.
McLaughlin sounded a warning regarding increased mandates, and problems created by the state’s new bail reforms. The bail reforms have already prompted the release of about 30 prisoners from the county jail, and sparked outcry from across the state.
“We are hopeful the State Legislature will take up the cause of mandate relief in 2020. With a $6 billion deficit, we are very realistic in being worried about new costs and mandates being assigned to our county. We are also hopeful the state will provide some much-needed help to develop infrastructure in our county. The Amazon project has shown our county is able to successfully compete for major and important projects, despite having infrastructure in some key areas. Our work to improve county finances, including an increased bond rating, shows our county is a good investment.”
McLaughlin noted the county has utilized innovation to try to reduce costs for mandates, including the ER Anywhere app. ER Anywhere allows Medicaid recipients the ability to call in for medical help or assistance for
“ER Anywhere also reflects our commitment to not just complain and complain about mandates, but to utilize technology, innovation and initiative to develop a savings while maintaining the same level of service and care provided by programs like Medicaid. With Medicaid costs at over $33 million, the savings thanks to ER Anywhere could be significant and meaningful. The county’s ER Anywhere program has already earned some attention from across the state and we believe this is an innovative idea that should be looked into seriously by other counties and the state.”
The county is also refocusing efforts to reduce welfare fraud and abuse, with investigations made during 2019 and in the previous year.
“The county is also using old-fashioned methods to protect taxpayers on mandates and other costs. The county has placed a greater emphasis on rooting out fraud and abuse in our welfare system and had some success sending a message that our county is on guard. The county conducted several sweeps to root out welfare fraud in 2019. The most recent sweep resulted in the arrests of 13 individuals. Of course, based on the new criminal justice reforms, none of those individuals were required to be placed on bail. We expect to be expanding our efforts and working to do more to erase this very expensive type of fraud and corruption in our taxpayer-supported system in 2020.”
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin offered the following reaction to the State of the State address by Governor Cuomo today, saying he was disappointed the state presentation did not include any discussion of repairing bail reforms or fixing the state’s $6.3 billion deficit.
The State of the State came on the same day McLaughlin gave a State of the County address to the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce. McLaughlin outlined the recent success by the county, including two consecutive, unanimously approved county tax rate decreases, upgrade of the county bond rating, and savings for personnel and purchasing.
The county under McLaughlin has also increased road repair and paving, avoided debt during the past two years, and seen historic job creation and investment.
“Every day the state fails to address the bail reforms is a day that New Yorkers are less safe. The top priority of the state needs to be to fix these reforms and restore common-sense to our courts and communities,” said McLaughlin.
“The headlines in just a matter of days have already been highly troubling and are proof that these reforms are titled far too far in favor criminals and those who want to do harm,” added McLaughlin.
“The state’s $6.3 billion is a major concern for all of us in the counties, because we worry that state financial problems will become disasters on the local level. The state needs to make common-sense decisions and solutions that allow the counties to effectively manage and grow without new mandates and aid reductions.”
“I met with county executives from across the state this week, and there is a concern about how the state can be facing such fiscal trouble while the national economy is surging.”
“The state has lost 1.4 million residents since just 2010, and we need to hear from state leaders as to how they will be addressing an exodus of our friends and family. The State of the State did not include any ideas or even an acknowledgement of this troubling trend.”
“We would also appreciate the state addressing some significant road, bridge and infrastructure issues across the state. State infrastructure is in need of repair, and investment would be of great assistance on the local levels.”
“We are looking forward to having the state deal responsibly with these very important issues and concerns. This is a critical time for our state, and a critical opportunity to address very real concerns about finances, public safety and our future.”