MarthaSauerbrey, District 2 Legislator & Legislative Chair
Martha Sauerbrey
District 2 Legislator & Legislative Chair

607-687-8234/607-687-2911 cell

Location & Phone

56 Main Street
Owego, NY 13827

Main Phone:

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State of the County Address - 2018

Last Updated: 3/14/2019

The original purpose of county governments was straightforward: counties built roads, protected residents, and delivered social service programs. Today, we do all of those things and more. From public health to public safety, from supporting local industries to delivering state programs. County Government is constantly changing because of new influences, new technology and new mandates.

Change is happening across the county especially in workforce. The County has seen a significant increase in the number of retirements. The turnover keeps our Personnel Department busy with recruiting, hiring, and transitioning employees.

Fortunately, we saw this coming and took action. We developed and implemented a new program called the Institute for Advancement (I4A). Nineteen employees participated in the program throughout the year that provided additional information and training to employees striving to be Tioga County’s future leaders. We will continue the program into 2019 as well.

2018 was another outstanding year for the Veterans Services Agency. They expanded their hours of service, developed new partnerships with community-based providers and can now do a better job serving the mental health and substance abuse needs of veterans and their families.

The Tioga Career Center works closely with the Veteran’s Service Agency and for the third consecutive year, the Tioga Career Center received the Veteran’s Program Office Award from the NYS Dept. of Labor for their exemplary service to veterans.

Last week the Tioga Career Center held their fifth successful job fair with 100 businesses participating all with jobs to offer.

We saw a slight decrease in drug related deaths compared to 2016 and 2017. Tioga County Alcohol and Drug Services continue to be the primary provider of outpatient drug and alcohol services within the County. They have been on the frontlines in dealing with the negative impacts of Opiate/Opioid addiction. Trinity-CASA also provides a varied amount of services to individuals and families in Tioga County. Grant funding from Senator Akshar and the Floyd Hooker Foundation helped provide needed funding for the agency.

Tioga County Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) Coalition continues to make good progress and last fall they were awarded a five year Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Grant. With support from the Community Services Board and County Legislature, Tioga County has made substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services a main priority.

With the change in recent weather patterns, the Public Works Department have been repairing roads, creeks and bridges that are affected when there is a serious weather event. They also work with our public safety agencies to insure the safety of our citizens. Emergency Management, Sheriff’s Office and Public Works have had their hands full dealing with weather issues from flash flooding, ice and snow.

Keeping people safe is also a responsibility of the Department of Social Services. Although they saw a decline in financial assistance needs, they experienced a serious spike in Hot Line calls. The challenges to today’s society along with the abuse of drugs and alcohol is a major cause of concern for the safety and well-being of our children.

The Public Health Department provided Rabies Clinics that inoculated close to 1300 animals last year. The Healthy Neighborhoods Program is wrapping up its 5th year of the grant, and through that program, they provided many home visits to insure safety from problems with pest management, home pollution and radon concerns.  Our aging mobile Dental Van had a productive year providing several thousand dental services to children and adults in Tioga County.

The Law Department worked with Probation and other departments regarding new NYS Raise the Age Legislation. Another challenge was addressing Counsel at First Arraignment. It took the cooperation of Probation, Sheriff, Public Defender, District Attorney, and the NYS Office of Court Administration to accomplish the task. Working with ILS Grant Administrator and the Public Defender, the Law Department secured funding through the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services and we hired a full time Public Defender earlier in the year. The County jail will accommodate a Centralized Arraignment Part court.

The District Attorney created the Traffic Safety Diversion Program in 2018, took in almost fifteen hundred applications, and received close to $400,000 in application fees. Funds were shared with the local municipalities where the tickets originated. Tioga County received a quarter of a million dollars through the program to offset the expenses of operating the program. Importantly, all of the fees have stayed in Tioga County.

Last year, I hosted many Shared Services meetings with our Village Mayors and Town Supervisors. Shared Services is a mandated program by the State to save tax dollars by sharing services, something we have been doing for years. Because of changing technology, we will share services, with towns and villages for Information Technology and Communications Services. Municipalities can elect to have the County’s IT department manage their computer and technology infrastructure. This not only results in a significant upgrade in services for the entity, but also reduces costs as much as 30%. The first municipalities coming on board are the Town of Owego and the Village of Waverly. Other communities will come on board in the future.

Last year, our Tioga County Sales Tax Income increased 16.5% from 2017. Second highest in the state. Because we share our sales tax with towns and villages, municipalities benefited over six million dollars in sales tax revenue for 2018. Income from Tioga Downs totaled 1.3 million dollars.

Where are we currently spending your tax dollars? 2.3 million of our tax dollars went to Community College Tuition bill, which represents 10% of our county tax levy. This mandated program benefited less than 3,000 county residents pursuing higher education. Further, State Mandates already take up over 90% of our annual budget and the mandates keep coming.

The cost of state mandates on county and NYC taxpayers is more than $12 billion a year for just nine major state programs. That means our local taxpayers send $1 billion a month to Albany, with no funds going to local needs. This year the Governor is proposing even more mandates on counties (not including NYC) in his budget.

These new mandates will lead to higher property taxes and they include:

  • Requiring the County to restore Aid to Municipality funding through county dollars and not state dollars.
  • Expansive Election reforms at county cost.
  • A three percent across the board cut in all local assistance if state revenue estimates fall short.
  • Bail reforms that will likely increase costs and require more county manpower.

We fully expect Albany to implement a mandated Permanent Tax Cap as part of the State Budget. However, this Legislature will continue to keep taxes low and stay at that 2% tax cap not because of a mandate, but because we want to do the right thing for our taxpayers.

How do we address our financial needs and bring more income to our county? Economic Development! Economic Development brings jobs, people, housing and opportunity. Economic Development projects bring dollars to our communities. Our Economic Development department secured over thirteen million dollars in State and Federal grants that will benefit the communities of the Villages of Owego, Spencer, Nichols, Newark Valley and Waverly.

The report from US Bureau of Economic Analysis states that Tioga County Gross Domestic Product from the years 2014 - 2015 showed an increase of 10.8%, which was largest percentage in New York State.

Examples of progress and change in our communities is the renovation of The Owego Parkview's historic hotel and the construction of the Gateway Building on Front Street.

Last August the Village of Owego received the Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant for Ten Million Dollars, thanks in large part to Team Tioga, our economic development team of individuals. The DRI funding will support downtown revitalization through transformative housing, economic development, and community projects that will attract and retain residents, visitors, and businesses. 

Last year, the Tioga County Property Development Corporation (Land Bank) was formally established and they received a $500,000 Community Revitalization Initiative award. The goal is to maximize foreclosed properties to their best possible reuse and develop a land bank program that will demolish or rehabilitate properties to go back on the tax rolls. For the first round of activity, nine properties have been identified in the Village of Waverly and three in the Village of Owego.

Change is coming to New York in the form of Agricultural Development. A Federal Farm Act bill was passed in January that legalizes hemp. This has become a viable product for the agricultural market and there seems to be a lot of interest in Tioga County. As soon as Albany figures out the details, marijuana will become legal in New York State.

Change will always be with us. There is no question that we have much work ahead, especially if we are to reach our full potential. However, we must also never forget how fortunate we are. Here in Tioga County we will continue to work together to build on our foundation where people can live safely, raise their families and enjoy a healthy quality of life.

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