“Rensselaer County’s Time is Now” Says County Executive Steve McLaughlin in Optimistic State of the County Speech
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin delivered an optimistic and energetic State of the County address on Tuesday, noting success by the county in protecting taxpayers, expanding services and supporting historic job creation.
McLaughlin said the county is now poised for even bigger achievements during 2020, and introduced a number of initiatives to control costs, support economic development and serve seniors, veterans and youths.
“Today, I believe we are poised to enter a new era of greatness in Rensselaer County,” said McLaughlin.
“We are making history today with strong financial management returning benefits to our taxpayers and residents and creating investment and new jobs at a truly impressive rate. Our time has come and we must choose wisely for the future and work together to leave this county a place future generations will be proud to call home. The work we do now will echo for many years to come,” added McLaughlin.
Major job creation successes including 800 new jobs at the Amazon project in Schodack, several hundred new jobs at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in East Greenbush are being joined by the announcement of up to 70 new jobs at R&L Carriers in South Troy. McLaughlin also previewed
McLaughlin noted the unanimous passage of the 2020 and 2019 county budgets, including a 3.7 percent tax rate decrease in 2020. The county has seen an upgrade in the county’s bond rating and led the state in sales tax growth.
Along with that work, the county has reduced county debt by $20 million during the past two years and has incurred no general obligation debt. The county is performing so strongly fiscally that a review by the State Comptroller reduced the county’s fiscal stress to zero.
“These two tax rate reductions demonstrate very clearly that Rensselaer County is serious and committed to protecting our taxpayers and ensuring we do all in our power to create a positive environment for growth and investment. As we have seen, that work to keep taxes down is meaningful and produces results. We can look at projects like the Amazon distribution center in Schodack, the continued expansion of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in East Greenbush and retail growth on Route 4 as proof that lower taxes get results,” said McLaughlin.
The State of the County was delivered as a State of Emergency declared by the Governor is in effect due to coronavirus. McLaughlin noted that Rensselaer County has no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the county. He praised the work by county Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas and her team, along with support from federal and state health officials.
“Our Health Department is rising to the occasion to coordinate preparation and response, work regularly with medical professionals, residents, officials from state and federal health agencies, and put long hours in behind the scenes to keep us safe,” said McLaughlin.
The State of the County also included a number of other highlights and proposals by McLaughlin to strengthen the county and services provided to residents. With the aging Troy senior center now sold, McLaughlin said he is pursuing a lease that would allow center operations to be based at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club.
The county, which recently celebrated the delivery of the 4 millionth home-delivered meal, is committed to maintaining a senior center in Troy and eventually finding a permanent home for the operation.
“Our county has been fortunate to enter into a number of shared services agreements. We view the deal with the ‘Burgh Boys and Girl Club as one of our most important. The expected agreement will give our seniors a new home in one of our most historic areas of the county, and offer easier access, more parking and convenience for those we serve. And we will be hopefully helping strengthen a ‘Burgh landmark that has provided direction and support for our young people in the area for generations,” said McLaughlin.
The county has also expanded investments in improving the county road network, planning to pave over 35 miles of roads in 2020. That follows over 32 miles of roads that were paved in 2019. In addition, the county has replaced nearly one-fourth of the county’s fleet of tandem dump/plow trucks.
“As County Executive, I have made road improvement a priority and will continue to do so. During my first budget in 2019, I am proud that we paved 33 miles of county roads, a significant increase over what we would normally do. For 2020, our goal is to pave over 35 miles, the most paved in a single year in more than 20 years,” said McLaughlin.
“By the end of the third year of my administration, we will have paved 100 miles of county roads, or, nearly one-third of the county roads,” he added.
State fiscal troubles could erase many of the county’s fiscal gains, with the state facing a $6 billion deficit and Medicaid shortfall, said McLaughlin. The state tax cap could also be placed in jeopardy by possible state cost-shifts, which could cost the county several million. McLaughlin renewed his call for an immediate repeal of state Bail Reforms, which he noted have cost the county over $700,000.
“Bail reform represents the biggest public policy failure in my time in public service. Already, a town justice from our county has resigned his office, citing bail reform,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also updated legislators on the construction of a new county training tower, with demolition of the long-closed structure in Wynantskill expected in the coming weeks. The new training tower will help with recruitment and retention efforts, the County Executive said.
With a state project to develop a trail between Rensselaer and Kinderhook Lake nearing completion, McLaughlin also announced he has asked Nassau Supervisor David Fleming to lead an effort to develop a county trail network. He joined Fleming in asking for public water to help residents dealing with toxic contamination in Nassau. McLaughlin also restated his support for development of a public water resource to deal with contamination issues in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.
“I come to you tonight proud of our accomplishments and appreciative of your willingness to work with my administration. I also come to you tonight awed by the possibilities and opportunities we have before us. Let us all resolve to fully capture those opportunities and make this a period of leadership and service that will be remembered as a time of action and achievement,” said McLaughlin.