Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Ulster comptroller says county should take multi-year approach to financial management

KINGSTON – The way the Ulster County budget is formulated is based on a one year financial plan and County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said it should be based on “a longer-term context.”

The budget process needs to be modernized, he said, and with that in mind, he commissioned a report, “A Better Budget for Ulster County." The document was prepared by the SUNY New Paltz Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach.

The current budget format is “traditional,” and that doesn’t cut it anymore, said Auerbach.

“In today’s world with money being the way it is and mandates being the way they are, the single year line item budget does just not do the job that we would want it to do financially,” he said Monday.

The report illustrates the value of using the budget document and process not only to forecast the financial future, but also as a policy document, operations and management tool, and a communications device, said Auerbach.

(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Ulster comptroller questions overtime in county departments

(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

KINGSTON – Overtime in the last three years exceeded the amount budgeted by an average of 12.5 percent, according to a report by Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach.

Auerbach reviewed the Golden Hill Health Care Center, county Health Department, Ulster County Area Transit, the Department of Information Services and the Sheriff’s Corrections Division.

Based on his study, the comptroller said policies in the departments need to be tightened up.

“There is also the issue of whether we use overtime as a tool as opposed to hiring more full-time people, especially in areas that there is a critical need look at the jail, looking at UCAT, looking at Golden Hill Health Care Center,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing where you need to have somebody there; are you better off working somebody from an overtime standpoint than filling a position.”

That will be a decision to be made by the county legislature and county executive, Auerbach said.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Auerbach provides different look at Ulster budget
(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has released a summary of the 2011 tentative budget that provides an overview of the budget data in a historical context.

“Concerned citizens and good government organizations want to understand budget data in a way that makes sense for them so they can question and comment on the budget,” said Auerbach. “This budget summary provides an additional framework for understanding the data in the 2011 tentative budget.”

The comptroller’s presentation offers the tentative budget data in the context of actual expenditures and revenues for the years 2006 – 2009.

It also looks at:

* The budget totals for the entire budget and for each fund within the budget including a brief description of each fund.
* The “Budget to Budget Variance” column compares this year’s budget to its previous year counterpart. This is in place to show how a budget can shrink or grow from year to year.
* The “Budget to Actual Variance” column is included to illustrate actual spending and income compared to budgeted spending and income.

“Governmental budgets are something that people generally love to hate,” said Auerbach, “but each of us has a vested interest in how the county spends our money. I encourage county taxpayers to participate in the budget hearings.”

A list of the public hearings to be held by the legislature is included on the report.

A full copy of the report can be found at www.ulstercountyny.gov/resources/comptroller.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ulster County Charter Adoption Turns 4

On November 7, 2006 the voters of Ulster County transformed government by adopting a charter that fostered transparency and accountability.

Lines were quickly drawn with both sides voicing strong opinions for and against the change.

Here's a FREEMAN look back at what they said. You tell me if it's working.


By Katie Young

THE PROPOSED Ulster County charter is pushing its way to the forefront of Tuesday's local election scene as more and more "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" signs pop up near traffic lights and on front yards.

Ulster County would be led by an elected full-time executive rather than a part-time Legislature chairman if the charter is approved. The change would take effect in 2009.

The executive would have the authority to appoint and supervise the heads of each of the county's departments, and they would serve at the pleasure of the executive. The executive also would be the point person responsible for the county's entire budget.

Also under the charter, the county's current appointed administrator and elected treasurer would be replaced by an appointed commissioner of finance and an elected comptroller. The Legislature, in turn, would relinquish most of its administrative duties and become a policy-making body, though it would be charged with approving the executive's appointments and expenditures.

Legislators voted 27-1 in August to put the charter proposal on the ballot, but the public's opinions are far more varied.

The county Chamber of Commerce, the Committee for Good Government and Pathway to Progress have filed financial statements with the Board of Elections that state support for the charter, while the Coalition Against the Charter filed a disclosure statement opposing the document.

Kevin Roberts, a member of the Coalition Against the Charter and chairman of the county's Resource Recovery Agency, said he opposes the charter because of the political ramifications of its powerful county executive and because of the unknown financial impact.

"You're going to get a county executive elected, (and) one of his responsibilities is to get re-elected, and there (will) be a lot of outside influences trying to bring big money into it to influence the process," Roberts said.

Emily Johnson, a longtime member of the League of Women Voters, said the league supports the charter because it allows citizens to hold the maximum amount of possible control over their county government.

William West, a Republican who formerly chaired the county Legislature and now is a member of the Coalition Against the Charter, is proposing a county manager instead of an executive.

"I don't think anybody disagrees with the fact that we have to move forward with a change. I just think the county executive that's proposed is not the best one," West said. "We're urging people to come out and vote 'no' and give us some time to compose a document that would give the county a good-government charter as opposed to the political charter being proposed at this time."

"I think the decision process with a manager will be just as muddled as it is today," said Everton Henriques, a member of the county's now-disbanded Charter Commission. He said the county executive will be accountable to the people and must perform well in order to be re-elected.

The Legislature chairman is elected only by residents of his district and then is chosen for the leadership post by fellow lawmakers.

Legislature Minority Leader Glenn Noonan said it's difficult to gauge whether a county executive or county manager would be preferable.

"(With an) executive, you're getting an elected official with a vested interest in the county. It doesn't mean they have the know-how," said Noonan, R-Gardiner. "Whereas with a manager, you have someone with the know-how, with qualifications, but probably not a vested member of the community."

"What set me off was the fact that there was a refusal to have a debate about the cost (of the charter's mandates), because it's not hard to come up with the information," said James Quigley, treasurer for the Coalition Against the Charter, which put up 750 "Vote No - No to New Taxes" signs across the county.

Joan Lawrence-Bauer, chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, disagrees with the coalition.

"We believe it is absolutely false to say taxes will go up if the charter is passed," Lawrence-Bauer said. "We believe it will stem the tide of businesses that are fleeing from the county and encourage new businesses to come in."

"The only thing you can deal with with the cost is a guesstimate of what you'd pay for an executive and what it might cost for support help," said John Dwyer, another member of the former Charter Commission and a former Democratic legislator. "I think the savings will far outweigh the cost without a doubt."

Gerald Benjamin, chairman of the former Charter Commission, which spent two years researching and crafting the first draft of the document, said the state comptroller's office shows Ulster spent $142.32 per capita from 1993-2004 compared to an average of $119.89 in the chartered counties of Oneida, Rensselaer, Chemung, Orange, Dutchess, Broome, Putnam and Chautaugua.

Benjamin, a Republican, also is a former chairman of the Ulster County Legislature.

West argues that counties with managers save even more money. He cites Saratoga and Schenectady counties, which, according to the comptroller's office, spend an average of $127 per capita from 1993-2004 compared to $173 in the similarly sized Dutchess and Orange counties, which both have charters.

West and New Paltz Supervisor Toni Hokanson, a Democrat, warn of the charter resulting in a political machine and wish voters had more time to digest the 73-page document.

Bonnie Hewitt, chairwoman of the Ulster County Conservative Party, which has about 2,400 members, opposes the charter on grounds that it will create another layer of government.

"We do not feel that the people of Ulster County can afford to pay any more taxes for more levels of bureaucracy," Hewitt said.

GARY Bischoff, chairman of the county Legislature's Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which revised the charter draft before presenting it to the Legislature, said the charter will not another layer of government.

"It is a dual role between the executive and the Legislature working in conjunction, each with the ability to overrule the other at the same level," said Bischoff, D-Saugerties. "A single elected county executive would have much greater clout in Albany as a voice for Ulster County, and that strong voice would also help with economic development and recruiting companies."

The charter proposal will appear on Tuesday's ballot as Proposition 1. If it is approved, the first county executive would be elected in November 2008 and take office on Jan. 1, 2009.

For the charter to be approved, a majority of voters both countywide and in the city of Kingston must vote yes.